Story: Violet Baumgartner has worked her entire life to keep her family’s reputation spotless and shares each year with friends and family via the annual holiday letter. When one fateful evening brings her world crashing down around her, she finds herself embroiled in some of her greatest fears. Her efforts to right the ship only create more waves as she desperately tries to redeem the Baumgartner name and salvage this year’s letter. In dramatic, yet hysterical fashion not common in the Midwest, Violet and her motley crew must learn to adapt or drift apart forever.
It was disorienting. Distasteful. Her cheeks burned as if she’d been slapped. Her family’s health, its very survival, would forever fall squarely on her shoulders alone.
Why: My hometown is 20 miles from the Minnesota border – just across the river in Wisconsin, and since moving to North Carolina, I have missed the “yah’s,” the “eh’s,” and the “you betcha’s.” When I came across Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by a Minnesota-based author who created a book that celebrates the idiosyncrasies, and let’s face it, sometimes downright awkward nature of my people, I was IN! Also, on a more book-ish note, I’ve been really enjoying more modern family dramas lately! Nice change of pace from my usual historical fiction, and I can relate more easily as I transition into the adult role.
“Always remember, Cerise. You can’t win the battle if you don’t show up.”
Opinion: This book is at or very near the top of my favorites list for 2018. The wit and charm are delightful and the characters are spot on. Gretchen Anthony – you nailed it! I could end my opinion there, but I won’t!
One of the reasons I think I enjoyed this book so much was the addition of newspaper clippings, church bulletin announcements, previous holiday letters, etc. that break up the text. Anthony allows their content to provide depth to her characters and build a backstory without paragraphs of “so back in the day” content. For me, this structure and the language of the book made for a brilliant combination of plot and character. The action kept me engaged, yet the detail and conversations/inner dialogue left me feeling like I’d know Violet for ages, grown up with Cerise and knew the people of Faithful Redeemer Lutheran Church on a first name basis.
He could hear the din of the ongoing mayhem spill from the open doorway, all the way down to the corner where he’d parked.
Recommendation: If you grew up in the Midwest, especially if you grew up in a Midwestern Lutheran church, you should read this book! To me, it brought to mind stories of The Church Basement Ladies and my mother’s love for Lorna Landvik’s novels. The topics are a bit racy for us quiet Midwestern folk, but who really talks openly about lesbianism, sperm donation and gastrointestinal disorders on a regular basis? There is also some very minor adult language that, at least to me, made the characters feel more human.
The white lights of the tree danced in the early morning dark, as the pink sky outside their windows announced: Christmas has come again.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- Which character do you most relate to? (Admittedly, I can be a bit of a Violet sometimes…)
- Discuss the purpose of Richard Endres storyline.
- How would you describe Barb’s character?
- What do you make of Cerise’s discovery in the closet? Were you surprised?
- Is Violet the protagonist or antagonist of this novel? Who would you put in those roles?
About Gretchen Anthony
Gretchen Anthony is a Minnesota-based writer and humorist. After a career in management consulting and corporate communications, she left the cubical world for the writing life. As a ghostwriter, she has been the voice for some of the best brands in the United States, from CEOs to doctors and start-up superstars to BBQ pros.
Check out these other sites for more on Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners!
Monday, October 1st: Wining Wife
Tuesday, October 2nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, October 3rd: Eliot’s Eats
Thursday, October 4th: Caryn, the Book Whisperer
Monday, October 8th: Midwest Ladies Who Lit
Tuesday, October 9th: Running Through the Storms
Wednesday, October 10th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, October 12th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, October 15th: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, October 17th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, October 18th: Jessicamap Reviews
Thursday, October 18th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, October 22nd: Novel Gossip
Monday, October 22nd: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, October 23rd: Books & Bindings
Wednesday, October 24th: What is That Book About
Thursday, October 25th: @prose_and_palate
Friday, October 26th: Kritter’s Ramblings