Book Review: NATIVITY, an Anthology

NATIVITY, an Anthology.

Tales of births, rebirths and new beginnings

Edited by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and Gill James

I purchased this book, and the opinions expressed here are my own, voluntarily expressed. Iris Chacon.

This collection of nineteen separate short stories centers around the themes of birth and rebirth and the idea of new beginnings. It is not specifically a group of Christmas stories, although Christmas is a key feature of several of the entertaining and evocative tales.

I chose the book specifically because author Nicole Fitton contributed one of her dreamlike, poetic-prose stories at which I always marvel. I won’t tell you the plotline of her story, “New Shoes for Christmas,” but I promise you an amazing and surprising reading experience that will touch your heart.

This would have been a five-star review all the way but for one technicality, which I will explain later. That one lost star, which should probably be only half a lost star if that were possible, should not dissuade you from picking up this excellent book of stories to read through the holidays and beyond. You’ll find yourself thinking about Christmas, and births of many kinds, in unexpected, new ways.

The stories range in tone from somber and sad to quirky and funny, but all will reach your brain’s deep core and stay there. Here are examples of some of the great writing, chosen from two of my favorite stories.

“Roses Are Red”

by Aqsa Mustafa

If you haven’t yet discovered Pakistani storyteller Aqsa Mustafa, you will want to seek her work soon and often. Here are some passages from her story of a woman who is dealing with the loss of her child in bizarre ways.

“Some say bullet wounds hurt, some say paper cuts are the worst. But no one talks about the pain caused by something as small as breathing in the wrong perfume.”

“When they brought her to me for that one time and I held her in my arms, I poured my soul into that little figure, trying to will it into animation. But the paper-thin lids did not open, the tiny bird chest did not flutter with life, the rosebud lips did not part to release a twisted wail. I didn’t cry either, just looked at her. And when they took her away, I forgot to ask for my heart back,”

“… she had been ripped from our lives as suddenly and as finally as a circus artist pulls a tablecloth from under the dishes, leaving us clattering like cheap china.”

“In my blind ignorance, I thought a mother lost more when her child was gone, forgetting that the father didn’t even have the consolation of remembering the baby as a part of his body.”

“Sharing Mary”

by Alyson Faye

While “Roses Are Red” is one of the most sober stories in the collection, “Sharing Mary” is, in my opinion, the funniest. Author Alyson Faye has tied her story of snobbery and socio-political-scholastic relationships into an annual children’s Christmas play that seems to be going all wrong. Here are some samples of her prose.

[Angie Hawkins said,] “The cast list for this year’s Nativity play at the local church has been posted this morning. Jemma’s daughter didn’t get Mary or the Angel Gabrielle.”

The other yummy mummies shook their blonde tresses in fake sympathy.

[Angie continued,] “I’m afraid Jemma’s girl is the back end of the donkey this year. It’s the glasses you see.”

“She’s just started wearing them and well…” [said Jemma’s mother.]

Everyone sighed in motherly understanding mode.

“Obviously, Mary can’t be performed by a girl in glasses. It doesn’t fit the scenario, does it? No opticians in Bethlehem.” (A few of the group sniggered). “And my Ellie has the most beautiful blue eyes.”

Angie’s acolytes all nodded their glossy ponytails in agreement.

When the couple down the street proudly see their sons cast as two of the three Wise Men, Jemma thinks their loud marital fighting should disqualify their offspring. Everyone has heard the battles and is certain of impending divorce.

“Shouldn’t divorce mean your children can’t even be in the Nativity?” Jemma wondered aloud to Herbie the cat, whilst she absent-mindedly pushed him off his fish hunting perch. “What’s the point of being in a stable long-term marriage, if the local vicar doesn’t reward your children?”

After chaotic rehearsals and many artistic crises, an unexpected event occurs, which results in an uncharacteristically charitable resolution to the “Mary conflict.” The joy of Christmas indeed.

Here is a complete list of the authors and titles contained in the Nativity anthology. One of these may be a favorite of yours already, and several are sure to become favorites in the future.

Bon Voyage, by Adrian Naylor
Born Again, by Dianne Stadhams
Christingle, by Vanessa Horn
Christmas at the Cross, by Maeve Murphy
Drawn by the Sea, by Jeanne Davies
Emmanuel, by Steve Wade
Entranced, by Margaret Bulleyment
Fathering, by L F Roth
Following the Star, by Dawn Knox
Like a Lamb…, by Linda Flynn
Moon-mother, by Elizabeth Cox
New Shoes for Christmas, by Nicole Fitton
Roses are Red, by Aqsa Mustafa
Sharing Mary, by Alyson Faye
Soaring Down, by Finn Clarke
Solution, by Janet Howson
Telling Lies, by Paula R C Readman
The Go Girl, by I L Green
The Legionary, by Nicolas Siregar
The Seventh Angel, by Joy Mawby
The Trip To Nativity, by Jim Bates
The Unknown Path, by Doug King
Tick Tock, by Sally Angell
What Goes Around, by Allison Symes

I promised earlier to tell you why this book received four stars instead of five. What could have warranted the loss of that lonely star?

Lonely Lost Star

One of these wonderful stories, and only one, contained so many spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors that I nearly quit reading. Giving the editors the benefit of the doubt, I persevered and found the rest of the book to be consistently excellent. I’m not telling you which story offended. You’ll find it for yourself. Sadly, the plot and concept of the story were good; the errors simply made it nearly unreadable. Next time, writer: more editing!

NATIVITY, an Anthology, edited by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and Gill James, is available on Amazon(USA) and Amazon Worldwide. Follow the authors on Amazon and Goodreads. This book would make a fine holiday gift.

Wherever you are, and whatever holiday you are celebrating, I wish you health, safety, joy, and many happy hours of cozying up with a good book. (At my house it’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, y’all.)

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