Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah is about second chances and the magic of the holiday season.
Without a doubt, Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors from The Nightingale to The Four Winds. However, there are so many books of hers that I haven’t read yet. And I kept seeing that she wrote a holiday-themed novel so I knew I had to check it out.
Kristin wrote Comfort & Joy back in 2005. This is when she focused more on contemporary-style fiction rather than the historical fiction she’s known for now. But this one also has a huge dose of magical realism, which is something that is getting quite popular now but not as much so back in 2005. I saw several negative reviews of the book and I think people might have had different expectations—especially with how Kristin presents her historical fiction novels as they are full of epic storytelling and trying to stay true to the era of the novel.
But contemporary fiction with magical realism asks you to suspend disbelief and throw cynicism out the door. You have to or otherwise, you’re utterly confused as what is presented in the novel. I like magical realism in contemporary stories—when they are done right, they’re very impactful.
I personally really enjoyed Comfort & Joy. It’s heartfelt and moving, plus I loved that it was set during the holiday season.
What’s the Story About
It’s Christmastime time but Joy Candellaro is feeling anything but festive. She’s recently divorced and all alone so on a whim, she books a flight to the Pacific Northwest. When an unexpected detour takes her deep into the woods of the Olympic rainforest, Joy makes a bold decision to leave her ordinary life behind—to just walk away—and thus begins an adventure unlike any she could have imagined.
There she meets six-year-old Bobby O’Shea who is facing his first Christmas without a mother. His father Daniel is beside himself, desperate to help his son cope. Yet when the little boy meets Joy, these two unlikely souls form a deep and powerful bond.
But in an instant, Joy’s world is ripped apart, and her heart is broken. On a magical Christmas Eve, Joy must find the courage to believe in a love—and a family—that can’t possibly exist, and go in search of what she wants . . . and the new life only she can find.
Joe experienced unimaginable infidelity—her sister Stacey had an affair with her husband. And it wasn’t some one-off thing, which is still unforgivable, but they’re in love. And where does that leave Joy? All alone but still has to pick up the pieces. Her sister was her best friend, the only constant in life. This forces Joy to question everything and while she hates Stacey for what she’s done, she misses her too. It’s an unbearable situation, which is why she literally runs away and gets on the first flight out of town.
And this flight takes her to a small town where Joy could start over if she wants to. No one knows that she was betrayed by her sister and her husband. And when she meets Bobby, she wants to do everything she can to help him. I thought their connection and friendship was very touching.
While this is a book that’s been out for a long time, I still don’t want to get into spoilers but let’s say that the dynamic is interesting with the other characters in town, especially with Daniel.
I think Comfort & Joy is the ideal holiday read. You have the setting during Christmastime and it’s not an after thought, it’s very much part of the novel. But there’s a bit of magic in there too, which is a nice touch. And I think we could all use a bit of escape, especially with how the world has been the past couple of years. Go in with an open mind (remember these aren’t her epic historical fiction tales) and just enjoy Kristin’s writing. For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.