STEPHANIE GRACE WHITSON
Synopsis from back of book: With the country embroiled in civil war in 1862, a group of women formed the Basket Brigade and boarded trains to minister to Union soldiers transferring from overflowing hospitals in the South to northerly locations. The Basket Brigade offered fried chicken, pickled peaches, pound cake, and other dainties to men who hadn't eaten a home-cooked meal since enlisting. The women of Decatur, Illinois, served nearly two thousand meals to wounded warriors.
Three bestselling authors were blessed and inspired by the words written by the actual women who organized and participated in relief efforts during the Civil War. They have penned their stories in honor of them.
Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Barbour Books, 2015.
How acquired: Via BookCrossing.
My thoughts: Three separate stories, from three new-to-me authors. While each story is about a different woman in Decatur, Illinois, there are several characters who appear in all three books, most notably Mrs. Collins, who reminded me of a less offensive Little House on the Prairie Mrs.Oleson. In each story she was a spiteful, self-centered, full of herself woman, who then exhibited some humanity at the end of the story.
The first story, “A Stitch in Time”, by Stephanie Grace Whitson, centers around Lucy, whose deceased father left her a dry goods store and a small fortune thanks to some savvy investments. While volunteering with the Basket Brigade one day, she is appalled that the soldiers traveling on the hospital train don't have enough blankets or socks to keep warm, and she comes up with the idea to open her home as a meeting place for any of the women of Decatur who want to volunteer to sew socks and make quilts and blankets to be distributed on the trains. Jonah is the manager of her store, and has been in love with Lucy forever, but because of a leg injury that keeps him from enlisting, and the differences in their stations in life, he doesn't expect his love to ever be reciprocated. While this was a sweet story, I didn't really connect with Lucy, who was completely oblivious to Jonah and his feelings until the very end.
The second story, “A Pinch of Love”, by Judith Miller, was my favorite. Sarah's mother is one of the organizers and leaders of the Basket Brigade, and when she falls ill, Sarah has to take her place. Sarah has avoided volunteering, as she doesn't think she can deal with seeing the wounded soldiers, but she sucks it up and does her duty. Jacob wants to be fighting at the front, and is disappointed to be assigned to travel with the hospital trains to look out for the wounded soldiers. Until he meets Sarah, of course. I very much liked both Sarah and Jacob, and they slowly get to know one another and develop feelings for each other. Their growing relationship appealed to me more than the non-existent until the end relationship of the previous couple, and the obstacles they had to overcome – another young man who wants Sarah for himself and pretty much stalks her and lies to her, and Jacob's still hurtful memories of his former fiance who turned around and married someone else – were very well written and more realistic for me.
The third story, Endless Melody, by Nancy Moser, seemed to drag on too long, but I think that had less to do with the length of the story and was more because the main characters were living completely separate lives, withe him in another city, and were kept apart for most of the story. Zona and Cardiff were planning to marry fifteen years ago, when Cardiff suddenly left to fight in the war between Texas and Mexico, leaving Zona angry and heartbroken. Cardiff wrote many letters to her, but she never replied, which left him angry and heartbroken. As the story progressed, I kept waiting for them to be reunited, and in the meantime I didn't find either character particularly appealing. I was a little more sympathetic to them as the reasons behind their behavior was revealed, but they never fully resonated with me, and when they did finally meet again, the story was suddenly and abruptly over.
Despite the book's title, this isn't really a Christmas story, or rather Christmas stories, as the season wasn't mentioned that often. The third story does have Zona putting together a Christmas musicale, and some of her group of singers serenading the hospital trains with Christmas carols, but there isn't much else Christmas related.