Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Noel by Michael Malone



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Award-winning author Michael Malone's The Last Noel is a beautiful gift to American fiction. In a deeply touching tale, The Last Noel captures the exuberance and poignance of a lasting friendship between a man and a woman from very different backgrounds. Noni Tilden and Kaye King grow up and grow close as their lives come dramatically together through four decades of tumultuous change in a small southern town.

The story begins in 1963 when Kaye first meets Noni on the eve of their seventh birthdays. On that Christmas Eve, Kaye climbs through her bedroom window to invite her to come sledding with him in a rare southern snowfall. Over the next thirty years on twelve days of Christmas, they meet to share the passion, the sacrifice and the romance of a lifetime. At once exquisitely written and tearfully joyful, The Last Noel is one of the great love stories of our time.

MY REVIEW:

Noelle "Noni" Tilden was born on Christmas Eve to a wealthy Southern family in the 1950s.  The story begins on her seventh birthday when she meets Kaye King, the grandson of the servant family who lives in another house on her family's property.  Kaye was born on Christmas Eve the same year as Noni, and the two immediately develop a sweet and unusual friendship  -- unusual given their racial and social differences.

The story contains a "Christmas" theme in that each chapter takes place around Christmas time (which is also their birthdays) of a different year.  It spans a period of about 40 years, which allows the reader to experience, through Noni and Kaye's developing friendship, the progression of civil rights (particularly in the South), the Vietnam war, and the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

I am rarely moved to tears by a book, but this one just about did it.  I kept thinking I knew where the story was going to go and then Malone kept surprising me with new (and always tragic) twists.  In the end, the story is heartbreaking.

If you like tragic romance stories, this one is for you!