Friday, September 22, 2023

Book Review: The Christmas Orphans Club

By Allyson Bales

Hannah and Finn have spent every Christmas together since college. Neither has anywhere else to go—Hannah’s parents died, and Finn’s disowned him when he came out. Their tradition of offbeat holiday adventures only grows more outrageous with time. When the pair starts their adult lives in New York City, they add stylish Priya and mysterious Theo to the group, solidifying a found family and sense of belonging they’ve always craved.

But now, when Finn announces a move to L.A., this Christmas may be their last. Hannah is terrified of losing the family she’s built for herself, even as her boyfriend nudges her toward commitment. Meanwhile, Finn struggles with the things he’s about to leave behind—namely, his unexpressed feelings for Theo. Does growing up mean growing apart? This Christmas the changes these friends fear may be exactly what they need. . . . (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The lead up to Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year!  The weather is cozy, you're coming off that turkey or tofu turkey glow and feeling thankful after Thanksgiving.  One of my favorite thing to do starting December first was to watch Christmas movies with my cousin.  She absolutely loved the Hallmark channel but I loved movies with a little more...substance and drama!   This book reminded me of the perfect blend of Elf and Love, Actually.  It really gets you into the holiday spirit but also centers around friendship, love, and has that substance.    

There is a friend group that reminded me so much of my friends from college.  Hannah and Finn meet in their freshman year.  I related to and had some much in common with Hannah.  She is a Jersey girly and loves music, the movie Garden State, and read Goosebumps as a kid.  She is also fiercely loyal and quite the worrier.  Finn loves fantasy novels and the TV show Parks and Recreation, and is a bleeding heart.  They both are alone on Christmas and come together to celebrate every year.  Later on they meet Priya and Theo and their holiday adventures become more outrageous!

While this book revolves around this quirky and endearing friend group celebrating Christmas each year, there are more deeply layered themes surrounding found family and how friendship can change over time.  I really can relate to this and to be honest, struggled a lot like Hannah. 

“Lately it feels like we have so much less time for each other.  It used to be a given that the four of us would spend our weekends together.  We didn’t need restaurant reservations or concert tickets to bind us to a date and time.  If we didn't have something to do, we’d find something to do.  But now it takes thirty emails and a Google Calendar invite each month in advance to lock in a date, and even then there’s a fifty percent chance at least one person bails.”

Like Hannah, Finn, Theo, and Priya, I spent nearly every day with my friends from college and my early twenties.  They were more than just my friends, a lot of them have become my family.  As we have gotten older and life has become more complicated, the shift of time spent and getting together every day has changed.  I think so many people go through these changes and I love the way Freeman explores this.  I also really enjoyed her writing style.

There is so much funny banter, alternative points of view, and a non-linear timeline that really keeps you laughing and invested in the story.  I also loved all of the pop-culture and music references.  Freeman also explores sexual identity and grief in a relatable way.  There were so many sweet and funny and also more serious and heartfelt moments in this amazing book!

If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit with a little more depth than a Hallmark movie, this one is perfect and one I highly recommend!

Also I did not know Becca Freeman has a podcast, Bad on Paper, but I do now and WOW!  I started listening on my way into work today and I now can't wait for Becca and her co-host Olivia Muenter to become part of my daily routine! 

Thanks to Viking for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase The Christmas Orphans Club here.

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