All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Christmas Under The Stars by Karen Swan

on August 27, 2020

Christmas Under The Stars
Karen Swan
Pan Macmillan UK
2016, 486p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Worlds apart. A love without limit.

In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters – much to Meg’s sister’s dismay – and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.

But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help – and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.

As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth – is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?

After the week I’d had, I felt like a pleasure read, something that didn’t require a lot of concentration – and I don’t meant that in a bad way. But I had some non-fiction and thrillers left on my ARC pile and they weren’t what I was after so I went digging in the pile I’d gotten from my library before they had to suspend local deliveries. I have quite a few Karen Swan books there and this one immediately grabbed me when I read the description. The weather was a bit Armageddonish – some sort of chunk had broken off from Antarctica and had made its way to southern Australia and it was freezing, raining, windy etc. However it was nothing compared to the weather that opens this book, a snow storm of the highest category in Banff, Canada.

Meg and Mitch were teenage sweethearts and now it’s ten years later and they’re about to be married. Mitch is a daredevil and also works search and rescue as well as designing and manufacturing snowboards. When a call comes in that two people are missing just as the storm is about to really hit, he insists on going out there, despite Meg begging him not to. With no WiFi or cell service at their cabin and the landline out in the storm, when Mitch doesn’t return in 5 hours like he said, Meg has only Mitch’s satellite radio to desperately try and call for help, even though she doesn’t know how to work it. The only person that responds is a Commander on the International Space Station, who is in just the right position in its track across the globe to be able to hear her distress call and respond, saying he’ll relay her message to someone who can raise the alarm and get help.

This was such an amazing idea for a story! The idea of Meg being so incredibly isolated during an absolutely awful storm and her only source of solace and help is someone that’s actually not even on Earth. Meg is absolutely beside herself with terror and grief as she imagines the worst and the Commander – Jonas – is a steady, unflappable voice who offers solace and help when no one else can. When the storm passes and everything has settled, Meg is faced with an incredible loss. In her grief, she finds herself reaching out to the only person who was there for her that night, the only one who could see what she experienced and the only one that she feels really understands.

Meg moved to near Banff with her family when she was a teenager and despite the fact that she could’ve gone to art college, she chose to stay behind with Mitch, invest in the business with him. Her younger sister works as a doctor in Toronto and often wants Meg to visit but she seems reluctant to leave the safe, comfortable, unchanged life that she has carved out for herself there, working in a skii/hiking hire shop and still being part of the same foursome she has been in since high school – Mitch, his best friend Tuck, her and her best friend Lucy. Tuck and Lucy are now married and Mitch and Meg were just days away from it before the storm hit. Now, in the aftermath, Meg’s life has changed and is changing in so many ways. She finds herself accepting an invite from her sister to visit her in the city and wondering if maybe there are opportunities that might present themselves to her now that take her beyond this area she’s spent the last decade in.

I really loved this one – the beginning is excellent at making the reader feel like they’re part of the storm and the aftermath is very emotional as Meg, at 26 or 27, has to begin to put her life back together, piece by piece. She also has to deal with the fact that someone she loves, and whom she believes cared about her, may not actually have her best interests at heart and might be hindering her from making any progress outside the life that has been unchanged for a decade. It takes Meg a very long time to realise some of these things and understand how a toxic friendship had influenced her life, had made her think certain things. She has to learn to base her decisions on what she wants, not what others want or need her for and that’s a hard new mindset to get into.

I found Meg’s journey really emotional – it was full of grief and she really did hit the lowest of the low for a while, before you can see her trying to pull herself out of the hole, looking around her, seeing that she’s still young, that there’s still a world out there that she can participate in. Her life isn’t over yet. It’s not an easy journey for her and there are several setbacks along the way. One of the few constants for a while, is the Commander, as they move to exchanging emails and because the relationship is remote, it’s easy to confide things in each other. However when Jonas returns to Earth, it’s like Meg realises that he’s now a real person who occupies the same space she does and that comes with a whole new range of feelings, which I found really interesting. You can see however, the moment that the fog does start to lift for Meg and how she starts to accept that she is able to move on and even though there are still some things that will hurt her, there’s a life waiting for her, if she wants it.

This was so good and it has kickstarted my reading mojo again.


Book #166 of 2020


3 responses to “Review: Christmas Under The Stars by Karen Swan

  1. Marg says:

    Glad you have your reading mojo back!

  2. It’s too early for me to think if Christmas, but I’m glad it kickstarted you’re mojo!

    • Christmas is actually sort of only really mentioned at the end, so it’s not a big part of the book! But yes, I definitely needed something to get me out of the fact that I hadn’t read much in about 10 days. Just had to ignore what I should’ve been reading and pick something I wanted to read.

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