Donna VanLiere decided that the version of the birth of Christ in the Bible wasn't good enough, so she rewrote it.
OK, that sounds crass. Really, though, The Christmas Journey is VanLiere's attempt at putting more emotion into the Christmas story. As she explains in the introduction, the scriptures are rather concise. They don't mention the conversations Mary and Joseph had or the labor pains or the stench of the stable. VanLiere adds all of this to her version.
I'm not going to summarize the plot, since you should really know this story unless you have legitimately been living under a rock.
This reminded me of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent for obvious reasons -- it takes a few nondescript Bible verses and elaborates. This is much shorter, coming in at 96 pages. (The beginning of the book is the actual scripture from Luke.) VanLiere's version of the Christmas story was a bit more humanized, and she was successful in adding some emotion and description into the story. I don't think it was enough, though. I would've liked to read something a lot more like what I read in The Red Tent... I wanted a full story, with background information on Mary and Joseph and dialogue and maybe some embellishments... Although, I'm sure the reason there weren't more embellishments is VanLiere's hesitation to add untruths to a story that most of the world is very, very familiar with. Whereas Dinah -- the center of The Red Tent -- is a lesser known Biblical figure, I'm pretty sure most people who know about the Bible are familiar with Mary and Joseph and that Jesus fellow. I guess you don't want to step on many toes there, and The Red Tent was clearly pushed as a fiction book. The Christmas Journey isn't so much.
Anyway, it's very simply written, and it's a nice, quick read for Christmas Eve night. The intro mentioned that VanLiere originally wrote this as a narrative to read during a church service (I think it's rather long for a church service reading, but maybe she's a Baptist). My thing is that I don't see the need to bother adding "emotion" and description to a story if you're not going to just take it and run with it. I'm sure there are a lot of people who'd love this slightly more human version of the birth of Christ, but it didn't do a whole lot for me.
Read on December 24, 2010