The Christmas Clock - Kat Martin A Song for My Mother - Kat Martin

These are both super-fast reads (it took me not even a whole afternoon for each) that take the reader to the fictional town of Dreyerville, Michigan -- based on the real Michigan town of Ionia, MI. Each novella focuses on a few members of the community and their personal life stories and struggles. Snapshot-of-smalltown-life kind of stories. 


Book 1 is The Christmas Clock, which I finished in December. This one focuses largely on Teddy Sparks. The book opens and closes with adult Teddy reminiscing on one special Christmas when he was eight years old and desperately wanted to buy this antique clock that his grandmother always admired in the window of the local antique shop. Teddy, his father not being in his life and his mother killed in a DUI-influenced car accident, is raised by his maternal grandmother, Lottie (his grandfather died around the time of Teddy's birth). But just a few years into Lottie taking over as Teddy's guardian, Lottie is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. She quickly has to scramble to find other arrangements for Teddy's care before it's too late, and secretly as well, so as not to alarm Teddy over her rapidly deteriorating mental state. {None of this is "spoiler" material, btw... all this is laid out in the first chapter.}


Teddy befriends local mechanic Joe Dixon, who offers Teddy some odd job work to help raise the money to buy the antique clock for Teddy's grandmother's Christmas present. 


There are also the stories of Sylvia and the couple Doris and Floyd. Sylvia dated Joe Dixon in high school, intended to marry him, but after some traumatic news suddenly has to leave town, not to return for many years. She enters the story with her homecoming and her having to find a way to reconcile with Joe because of what her actions did to him. Doris has been married to Floyd for over twenty years, but several of those years have been spent with them barely acknowledging each other. Doris is finally fed up with the distance that has developed between them and is desperate to find a way to breathe life back into her stagnant marriage. 


The story, though entitled The Christmas Clock, actually begins the summer before that particular Christmas, the timeline working up to that fateful day. The novella as a whole has a sweetness to it that I did enjoy but I wasn't overly wowed. The description of Lottie's deterioration was sad and touching. Teddy, as a little boy, was a really sweet character. But the plot just had a little too much Hallmark Movie in it for me, with everything wrapping up a little too perfectly. Also, the dialogue could be very cliche and greeting card sappy at times. It almost felt as if this were written with tv movie rights in mind!


The whole rift between Sylvia and Joe -- that seemed like so many of the subsequent problems could have been avoided or at least waaay lessened if she'd simply written him a truthful letter outlining her reasoning for suddenly leaving town rather than telling him what she did... just sayin'.


Book 2 is A Song For My Mother, which I finished the afternoon of January 1st. This novella takes place the following Spring after The Christmas Clock and introduces the reader to more residents of Dreyerville while also giving updates on characters from Book 1. Much of the plot focuses on Marly Hanson. Marly was just a teenage girl when she decided to run away from Dreyerville, wanting to escape an ugly home life of abuse, constantly battling parents and her father's alcoholism. Marly runs off with local bad boy Burly, knowing she's not in love with him but feeling like he's her only way out of town. Fast forward twelve years -- Marly and Burly are no longer a couple but do have a daughter together, Katie (though again, like The Christmas Clock, this story features an absentee father). Katie is recovering from battling brain cancer and her one major wish is to meet her grandmother, Marly's mother. Marly has always been resentful toward her mother for not standing up to that abusive husband and protecting little girl Marly, but after everything Katie has been through, Marly feels like she owes her daughter this one wish. So here Marly is, back in Dreyerville, with Katie.


Katie befriends the boy who lives next door to her grandmother, Hamilton, or "Ham", the son of widower / local sheriff Reed Bennett. Katie and Ham becoming such good friends ends up bringing Marly and Reed closer together, though Marly keeps telling herself she's "only visiting", having no intention of staying in town too long. 


There's also the side story of Emily Carter, recently widowed when her husband, a deputy with the police department, is killed during a routine traffic stop. Emily suddenly finds herself struggling to raise her three year old son in this new position as "single mom".


This book left me feeling much like The Christmas Clock did -- a cute story overall, at times a little heavy on the schmaltz but a nice, easy read with some heartwarming moments. But again, this one had a pretty predictable plotline that didn't strike me as all that memorable. Good if you just want a simple read for a chill day on the porch swing.