Delightful and Heartwarming
The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels is a delightful novella and the first in the Christy Lumber Camp series. It is set in 1890. As soon as I began reading, I could tell that this was going to be one of those stories that I am going to have to read every Christmas. Warmth and love just oozes throughout the novel.
The moment new lumberjack Tom sees Jo Christy, he knows that she is the woman for him. He will however have to get past her two burly and protective brothers to stand any chance of earning a place in Jo’s heart.
The theme of family runs throughout the novel. There are different types of family… actual blood families, the lumber camp family unit and God’s family. Mr Christy heads up two of those families. He is a wonderful father figure as he tries to protect and love all those who fall under his care.
The place of a mother in the family is also portrayed. Jo has recently lost her mother. She, her brothers and her father are all devastated by the loss. Jo tries to step into her mother’s shoes as she begins work in the kitchens. It is as if doing her mother’s job will help to heal the pain and loss for Jo. Carrie Fancett Pagels tackles the whole area of grief sensitively.
Tom likewise misses his mother, but she is very much alive in Ohio. In an attempt to win Jo’s hand, and also to marry a woman like his mother, Tom issues the fruitcake challenge. If Jo can make a fruitcake as good as his mother’s, he will propose. Jo, not only rises to the challenge, but so do women all over the camp. Various men set their sights on different women and the fruitcake challenge produces some amusing results.
Within The Fruitcake Challenge is the theme of taking care of the widows and orphans. Those who are vulnerable are watched over by the men in the camp.
Education is seen as important. Tom has a dream to be a teacher and a love of learning. He tries to pass his love of books on to the youngsters in the camp as he reads to them nightly. He is a father figure to many, and as such if he sees an injustice, he will step in and deal with it.
The theme of personal dreams is continued in Jo. She desires to leave the lumber camp and work in a bakery. She commits her dream to the Lord, leaving it in His hands.
Oh I just loved The Fruitcake Challenge. It was the perfect read for a dark evening in the run up to Christmas. I was torn between savouring it or reading rapidly to see the outcome. Carrie Fancett Pagels writes with warmth, depth and great beauty, leaving the reader feeling good. I cannot wait to read more by this clearly talented author. If you have not read anything by Carrie Fancett Pagels, why not download or buy a copy of The Fruitcake Challenge today? You will be glad you did.