Comfort & Joy

British journalist India Knight's semi-biographical novel Comfort and Joy (2011) is "clearly warm-hearted holiday fun".

Christmas is the most important holiday for Clara Dunphy (a follow-up to My Life on a Plate, 2000). She demands nothing short of "perfect" for her family and friends, never mind family these days means 2 ex-husbands, 3 children, sisters, parents, in-laws, out-laws and sundry hangers-on. So on a frantic and rainy Dec. 23, after fighting the crowds on Oxford Street, a giant cocktail in the swanky hotel bar sounds like just the reward she deserves before heading home to a houseful of guests. But then a handsome stranger asks her to stay for another drink. Oh well, all good intentions...

As we follows Clara, "a witty, blackly funny everywoman" through three successive Christmases, we witness changing roles and shifting family dynamics. Well-paced dialogue and amusing and insightful anecdotes captures the spirit of the season while giving us a glimpse into one modern family's struggle with children, marital turmoil, and materialism.

In Kristin Hannah's Comfort & Joy (2005), recently divorced and having no family of her own, Joy Candellaro is beginning to dream of a new life with widower Daniel O'Shea and his son, Bobby, until a fateful Christmas Eve forces her to make a painful choice. A modern-day fairy tale of a woman who gets a miraculous chance at happiness.

I first read Jim Grimsley's memorable and moving Comfort & Joy in 1999. It is still one my favorite to revisit at Christmas time.

Ford McKinney is a devastatingly handsome, successful doctor, raised in an old Savannah family among good breeding and money. His longtime boyfriend, Dan Crell, is a shy hospital administrator with a painful childhood past. When the holidays arrive, they decide it's time to go home together. But the depth of their commitment is tested when Ford's parents cannot reconcile themselves to their son's choices. "Grimsley triumphs in (this) novel in which two unlikely lovers must reconcile what is expected of them with what they know in their hearts is right."

Wishing you comfort and joy this holiday season...