Book Review: The Christmas Table

15 Dec

My book club always reads a Christmas-themed book for December’s discussion. While reading/listening to a Donna VanLiere novella is a yearly tradition for me, The Christmas Table was the first of her books for us to read together. It got a unanimous thumbs up!


In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she’s always longed for?


Donna VanLiere — a mom, a wife, an animal lover, and a closet comedian at home. She’s passionate about cooking (…and eating), reading, movies and teaching, inspiring, challenging and encouraging dreamers! She doesn’t like watching sports on TV but is a huge fan of athletes under five feet tall who call her Mom. Donna also loves to write books. As a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, her 14 titles include The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing — both of which were adapted into movies starring Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Neil Patrick Harris. Both movies garnered stellar ratings for CBS, including the highest rated made-for-TV movie of the year.  The Christmas Hope starring Madeline Stowe was adapted by Lifetime Television, and her movies The Christmas Secret and The Christmas Note when aired were among the highest rated movies in the history of the Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel. Donna’s non-seasonal novel’s, The Good DreamAngels of Morgan Hill and non-fiction works like Finding Grace and High Calling — the biography of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband — capture the same warmth and poignancy as her Christmas books.

Donna has won a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, two Audie Awards (seven nominations) for best inspirational fiction, has been a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year and is an inductee in the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence joining such luminaries as Coretta Scott King, Hugh Downs, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Senator John Glenn. She also serves on the board of directors for National House of Hope, a residency program that is offered in several states for abused and at-risk teens. (By the way, if you’re looking for a place to give or to serve, look no further than here…

Donna’s mini-van is staring down 200,000 miles as she runs her kids to school, drama and tennis practices, Tae Kwon Do, church, and the grocery store all while promising her editor to meet her book deadlines (…which occasionally does happen). She loves to spend her summers with her family around the swimming pool or a campfire.

One of Donna’s great loves is teaching and speaking. She has appeared at countless events around the country including keynote addresses at the prestigious Patricia Adams Lecture Series at Heidelberg University, Women of Faith, Among Friends Conferences and Extraordinary Women.


My Impressions:

Listening to a Donna VanLiere Christmas audiobook is one of my yearly traditions. This year I was excited to share her latest novella, The Christmas Table, with my book club. All of us liked it immensely. The story is sweet and poignant and had me laughing out loud and crying all within a few minutes! As a warning, one of the characters has breast cancer. My own journey this year with that devastating diagnosis caused a lot of the weeping. I almost put the book down because of it. Almost. I stuck it out and am glad I did. The messages of hope and the power of prayer are very strong and encouraging. This one is definitely a recommended read.

The Christmas Table returns the reader to Grandon and all of the characters (many quirky) readers have come to love. The story has two timelines — 1972 and 2012 — that eventually come together in a most satisfying way. At the center is a family heirloom and recipes that bring focus on the importance of family and friends. I loved both stories, although Joan’s was tough to read. The characters are all very relatable in their struggles. An easy and quick read, its depth of message make it one of my favorites by VanLiere. As always, it would make a great Hallmark movie. And for those who love to cook (or not), many of the mouth-watering recipes that Joan cooks up are included at the end of the book! Yum!!

If you don’t mind some tears among your laughter, The Christmas Table is a great choice for your holiday reading. Grab a hot beverage, a cozy blanket, and box of tissues 😉 , and snuggle in!


Audience: adults.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


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