A year of the Christmas Cookie Club novel
I had no idea the phenomenon that would surround me when my first novel, The Christmas Cookie Club, hit the stands last year. During my tour and through the social media, I met people excited to tell me about their cookie exchanges: an independent bookstore owner whose cookie party had been meeting for 30 years, members of a cookie exchange buying the book for the hostess, a daughter wanting a signed book for her mother, now in a walker, who had been in a cookie exchange for decades. A woman recently widowed ended up spending part of the holiday teaching a new colleague from China how to bake traditional Christmas cookie cut outs. Because of the charity aspect of the novel, the season of giving gifts, groups of people gathered to bake cookies for the troops and the homeless.
The social media connected me to readers from all over the world. A German critic twitted me her review, I had Google translate it. The next morning, I was on a TV News program and mentioned to the anchor how amazing it was to be communicating with a woman in Germany about my book. The anchor asked me about it on air. I then sent my new German colleague a link so she could watch me marvel about her blog and the immediacy and closeness of all of us. It has felt like I was at the forefront of a movement I did not even know existed.
But then the wonders came close to home. I had folded parts of my friend, Daphne’s, life—the story of her son’s death—in the chapter about Charlene. Daphne had started driving to Texas for a new job closer to two of her children when her cell rang. It was her sister-in-law.
“Do you know a Melody Mead Parker?”
Daphne paused, but before she could answer, her sister in law said, “She says she’s your sister and has been looking for you for years. She wanted your telephone number, but you know me, I wouldn’t give it, but I got hers. She wants to hear from you. Do you want it?”
“Yes, of course.” And Daphne immediately dialed it.
Melody and her two brothers were from Daphne’s father’s second marriage. Melody was her cute little shadow, following her around. Every morning she and her two brothers would jump on Daphne’s bed and snuggle up with her. But her father’s new wife never liked Daphne; after all Daphne was the offspring of a previous marriage, proof of a previous love. The second wife told her children that Daphne wanted nothing to do with them and wouldn’t see them.
Years passed and Daphne tried to find them, but gave up. She went through life as if an only child, but aware she had siblings out there she had lost.
Meanwhile, Melody and her brothers struggled to reach Daphne, but Daphne had married and divorced and remarried, changing her name and located. The two separated sisters gave up reuniting. Years marched on. A quarter of a century passed.
And then Melody bought The Christmas Cookie Club. When she came to the Acknowledgments she saw her sister’s name, now hyphenated and was able to call the sister-in-law. Melody was also driving when her cell phone rang. She immediately recognized Daphne’s voice. Within minutes, the two were balling, as Melody described how losing Daphne and yet knowing she was there somewhere meant living with an ache in her heart. Then both of them, one in New York State, the other in Oklahoma, pulled to the shoulder of their respective highways and talked and cried.
“My girlfriend wrote that book,” Daphne said.
“I know, that’s how I found you. I hope the story about your son wasn’t true.”
“It is. But because of that, I found you again.”
When I talked to Daphne she said, “So your book reunited a family. Amazing how things work. It’s the mystery of life that’s so wonderful and oftentimes overlooked. This is a Christmas miracle that came from a lovely Christmas book.”
The two sisters are picking up where they left off, talking and visiting each other. They had a family reunion late this summer and worked on healing the rifts that time had rent.
And so my first novel has had an impact that I never could have imagined.