The Christmas Glass by Marci Alborghetti tells the story of a group of people drawn together because each owns one piece of a special set of ornaments.
What is the Christmas glass they value so highly? The glass was made in Lauscha, Germany, where glassblowing was a family affair. The grownups did the hard part, forming the hot glass and pouring hot silver into the shapes. The children dipped the ornaments in lacquer and painted them. Here’s the description from the book:
“The ornaments seemed to be alive with light, and [she] fancied that if she touched them, she would feel their warmth. Each was a different shape, and the colors were so vibrant they appeared to glow. There was the Holy Family, with streaks of indigo coloring Mary’s dress, while green marked Joseph’s robe, and the Babe shone with gold. Three were long and thin, each in the shape of a wise man, and their robes were marked with scarlet and purple and deep green, all flecked with gold.”
“There was a crystal star with just the faintest sweep of fiery yellow lighting it from within, and an angel in joyous flight, his wings lined with silver. A starfish, awash with blue and green winked from the box, and a long icicle . . . flared with a thin spiral of silver and gold. There were two fish, symbols of the Lord: one spun with blue, green and silver and the other with red, orange and gold. And finally, [she] saw two perfect globes, crystal clear each, one with the merest sprinkle of red and gold, the other with green and silver.”
The story of The Christmas Glass begins with Anna, a compassionate young woman struggling to provide for seventeen orphans (three of which are Jewish) in her native Italy during World War II. For Anna the glass holds special meaning. It was passed down to her by her mother and reminds her of her loved ones–mother, father, husband–who have all been killed. She decides to box up the glass and send it to her cousin Filomena in America for safe-keeping. Anna cuts up her wedding dress to use as packing cloth, and Sarah, one of the young Jewish orphans, helps her wrap and send the ornaments.
Years later, the twelve ornaments have been distributed by Filomena to various family members and close friends. Filomena demands that each ornament be returned in person in order to orchestrate a grand reunion. The only problem is her family is in the midst of a feud, and her friends have problems of their own.
What happens? As the book blurb says, “After more than forty years, twelve people come to possess a piece of Christmas glass, some intimately connected by family bonds, some connected only through the history of the ornaments. As Christmas Day approaches, readers join each character in a journey of laughter and tears, fractures and healings, as Filomena, now an eighty-four-year-old great-grandmother, brings them all to what will be either a wondrous reunion or a disaster that may shatter them all like the precious glass they cherish.”
My favorite characters were Pastor Luke and Pastor Lou. They try to bring sanity and God’s Word to bear on the problems of the younger members of the twelve—those who are wise enough to seek counsel in the church. And I liked that the most solid, loving couples have relationships with Christ, attend church and Awana, and value their pastors’ input. Unfortunately, the book ends with only tenuous solutions for some of the biggest family problems. I guess we can assume that this family’s growth will be an ongoing process, kind of like real life!
Christmas Gift Guide: Since there’s not a lot of action in this story and much of it deals with regrets that come later in life, I would not give this to a teen. But it would be a good stocking stuffer for (dare I say, older?) women who enjoy reading life stories, with all the accompanying triumphs and tragedies that come with various relationship struggles—husband/wife, mother/son, mother/daughter. You name it, there’s an unlimited set of conflicts! (I’m surprised it was never made into a movie for Lifetime!)
Bonus Idea: The obvious—give this book with a glass ornament. Try to match one of the ornament descriptions above!