Darien Gee, who lives with her family in the fiftieth state, is a novelist who also has a weekly column on writing in North Hawaii News (archives available at dariengee.com/other-work-writers-corner). Her husband, Darrin, grew up in Chico and attended Pleasant Valley High School (class of 1985); his parents have lived in Chico since 1977.
Darien has been inviting readers, in a series of novels, to visit the small town of Avalon, Illinois (population 4200, more or less). In tracing the lives of some of the residents she mingles a contemporary focus on women in business while evoking, or awakening, a sense of how neighbors helped neighbors in the good old days. And what breaks down barriers is food--delicious treats and substantial meals that make a human connection.
Now, after "Friendship Bread" and "The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society" comes "An Avalon Christmas," a set of twelve intertwined stories that begins and ends with the residents of Harmony Homes, a care facility in Avalon. These are tales of quiet transformation in the lives of those "of a certain age," and others, who are lonely or ill or just disgusted with people (especially ex-spouses).
"An Avalon Christmas" ($5.99 in Amazon Kindle format from Gee & Co.) also has a companion audio version from Audible.com, beautifully read by Carin Gilfry.
Food is lovingly described in the stories. In "And We're Wassailing," "Bartholomew Solomon slips on his worn oven mitts, then cracks the oven door and take a peek. The breadcrumbs are crisp and golden. Underneath the crust Bartholomew knows the thyme, garlic and cloves have mingled with juicy red tomatoes, bacon, kielbasa sausages, pork and white beans resulting in a scent so enticing that Bartholomew has to resist grabbing a spoon and taking a bite right there." (A half dozen recipes are included at the end of the book, including the one for Bartholomew's cassoulet.)
In "Room At The Tea Salon," there are "cranberry orange Amish Friendship Bread scones," and in "Cookie Exchange" "lemon icebox cookies, chocolate-dipped shortbread, candied stained-glass wreath cookies"--you get the idea. Along the way we meet a young woman who helps save a failing bookstore, a mysterious stranger who insists on gift-wrapping in the snow, and a surprise Santa. Welcome to Avalon!