The plot revolves around a professional cuddler, (yes this is a booming business right now) disguised as Santa. Although some of the descriptions will sound as if it falls under Christmas comedy, the book is anything but. It falls under Christmas Classics. It's almost Christmas in Peace, Oregon and thirty-three-year old Scott Dempsey refuses to spend another Christmas pining over his wife Beth who left him for another man three years ago. He sold the house they built together, has tried to move on but just can't let her go. Scott and his father Gabe run Dempsey Hardware; the business Scott's parents started before Scott was born. Peace sits in a valley surrounded by rolling hills with a backdrop of mountains and has a population of 2200. Christmas is important in Peace. The town square will be decorated; every store front will compete for who wins the prize for the most creative (santa on the rooftoop or cut out life size Santa's made of wood, their mouths open as if singing holding songbooks) that type of creativity. Store fronts are filled with homemade items from aprons with Nostalgic Christmas sayings to hand made ornaments. And, in the middle of twon square, the regal two-story stone courthouse with turrets on either side will be lit up with lights that match the lights that travel around the square from street lamp to street lamp. You get the picture - baskets of pine branches hanging, bright red ribbons tied at the top, etc. In other words a Charles Dickens type of picturesque scenery. When Scott sees an online article on professional cuddlers (yes this is a real business but I didn't even know it until I after I started the book. Silly me, I thought it was my idea. : ) The problem is that if Scott decides to entertain himself during the holidays everyone knows everyone else in Peace in the surrounding communities. But he has an idea. If he dresses as Santa during the holidays and sets out flyers for those who just need someone to listen or hold their hand, maybe, just maybe it might take his mind of Beth. What Scott discovers, however, is behind masks of smilng faces is grief, sadness, disappointment and resentment. He had no idea that the people he greeted every day in the store had such grief or sadness. Angry old Maggie Bennett who has been miserable since her husband died has a reason; four-year-old Charlie who lost both parents in a car accident a year ago lives with his Grandmother Carol and befriends Scott has no idea that another tragedy is about to happen, and a twenty-eight-year-old girl with a one-year-old child is in the states illegally fearing every day that someone will come to her door, put her in jail and take her beautiful Sophie from her forever. The story centers around behind closed doors and the masks that cover deep tragedies and regrets. Does it have a happy ending? Read the book. ha! The overall theme of the story is the story of us and that each of us face challenges that no one knows about until a stranger takes time to listen. Below is maybe a better overview.
A heartwarming story about rekindling the spirit of Christmas (tagline under title)
The small community of Peace, Oregon are revving up for the holidays. In just a few weeks the town will be lit up and every window in the regal two-story courthouse that sits in the middle of town square will be framed in lights. People will greet each other jovially because, as we’ve been told, the holiday season is the hap-hap-happiest time of the year…for some.
But thirty-three-year-old Scott Dempsey wishes he could go crawl under the covers the day before Thanksgiving and wake up mid-January. He’s grown weary of putting on the holiday “happy” mask and even more tired of pining over his ex-wife, hoping she’ll come back home for the holidays and beg Scott’s forgiveness, even though he hasn’t heard from her in over three years.
After reading and then revisiting an article about a growing business Scott decides to become a professional cuddler during the holidays. But since everyone knows everyone in Peace, he will go incognito as Santa Clause. After distributing a flyer saying that Santa’s available to listen or give hugs, his pre-paid phone begins to ring off the hook.
This holiday season will be different. Scott will fill his time making old ladies happy. How difficult could it be?
But what Scott discovers, however, is that he’s not the only one who’s lost the Christmas spirit, but his problems pale compared to those he visits. People Scott has known all of his life and thought he knew well are heavily burdened by shame, guilt, and resentment, making it impossible to move forward with their lives.
The more Scott listens, the more he becomes attached which is the one thing he’s tried hard to avoid.
And now, he’s faced with a decision that will not only change his life, but those he has not only grown to care about and taught Scott the true meaning of Christmas.