When his mother passed away from cancer on Christmas day, little Nathan Andrews knew almost immediately that he wanted to become a doctor, so he could help people like her. Now a grown man in his third year of medical school, Nathan is beginning to have doubts about his ability to be a good physician. Every time he looses a patient it's like loosing his mom all over again. He's also stressed out by a rotation with a doctor who is great with his patients but very hard on the med students. Then Nathan chances to meet Meghan Sullivan, a young woman born with a hole in her heart, but who has never let it stop her from being the very best she can be.
Meghan is a championship runner with dreams of the Olympics who is being offered scholarships from several prestigious universities in exchange for joining their track team. Her young friend, Charlie Bennett, a fellow heart patient at the hospital where Nathan works, is her biggest fan and unofficial coach. Together they lift Nathan's spirits and slowly start to convince him that he truly would make a great doctor. Nathan and Meghan also make an almost immediate emotional connection, leading to a sweet romance, but when Meghan collapses with what could potentially be a fatal condition, will Nathan have the courage to stand by her and believe for a miracle when he didn't get one for his mother?
The Christmas Blessing is a lovely follow-up to the first book of the Christmas Hope series, The Christmas Shoes. Nathan Andrews, the little boy from that story who had been so desperate to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother, is all grown up and studying to be a doctor, but is doubting whether that is the right course for his life. Every time he looses a patient, it's like reliving his mother's death, and he isn't getting along very well with the doctor in charge of his rotation either. Then he meets a young woman whose zest for life, in spite of being born with a hole in her heart, is absolutely infectious, and his whole life changes.
I really liked the grown-up Nathan. His doubts and fears were very relatable. He is such a sensitive young man, and I have to agree with everyone who kept telling him he'd make a great doctor. Caring so much about his patients was really hard on him, but it made him so much more genuine. Doctors who truly care seem to be few and far between, so I really liked this aspect of his character. His struggle with his belief in whether miracles can really happen was very understandable too. I could also relate to his quiet, unassuming nature, and his difficulty talking with some people which made his immediate connection to Meghan all the more special. Their love was so sweet and their relationship reminded me of the beginnings of my own romance with my husband. I also loved the closeness he shared with his father, sister and grandmother which was just a more mature version of their family ties in The Christmas Shoes.
I couldn't help but admire Meghan for her indomitable spirit. She never let her medical condition get in the way of following her dreams, and her determination led her to be a first-class runner. It was really hard to read about such a vibrant young woman becoming so sick almost instantly, but her illness was the catalyst which helped Nathan finally realize his own destiny. Meghan's young friend, Charlie, a fellow heart patient who acted as her unofficial coach was a big inspiration to her and others. I loved how Meghan and Charlie's families were always there supporting them unconditionally. They, along with Nathan's family, gave the story a great deal of warmth. The spirit of Nathan's mother lived on in the beautiful letters she wrote to her son before she died which was another lovely aspect to the story, as were the sweet little letters that Nathan's grandmother encouraged him to write to his mother over the years.
What I think I liked most about The Christmas Blessing and Donna VanLiere's writing in general is that she has a way with imparting a wonderful message of Christian faith without being too trite or preachy. It's done in a gentle, almost philosophical way through an object lesson that I think readers from many walks of life and faiths could relate to. I have to admit to being on pins and needles wondering how the story would turn out, and although there was definitely some sadness, there was also great joy in the end too. Overall, The Christmas Blessing was a great companion novel to The Christmas Shoes that has also earned a spot on my keeper shelf. There is television movie of the same name based on the book which I look forward to checking out, and although I'm not sure if the remaining books in the Christmas Hope series are related to these two books by characters or plot, I'm eager to read them during future holiday seasons.
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