Book Review: Ebenezer by JoSelle Vanderhooft

BookReview

Written by: JoSelle Vanderhooft
Release Date: December 13, 2013
Pages: 280, Paperback
Series: Standalone
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It’s Christmas Eve in the city that never sleeps, but Ebenezer doesn’t feel like celebrating. Her girlfriend of ten years has just left her, her job as a debt collector is slowly killing her, and worst of all, she hasn’t truly acted in years. But when three spirits representing the places and ambitions closest to her heart pay her a visit, Ebenezer just might find a reason to end her life-or a reason to keep going. Set during the global recession, this retelling of Charles Dickens’s immortal classic A Christmas Carol explores the vagaries of growing up and exchanging old dreams for new meaning.

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Hello, and welcome to this blog’s first review in a few months, focusing on a book with a seasonably appropriate subject! (Yes, I know Christmas is over, but it’s still Christmas in my HEART! It also probably helps that I’m Jewish and Russian, and have a few more days of holiday time left.)

This book, as you can probably tell from the title, is a retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. What you might not be able to tell, however, is that all the major players, including our Scrooge, are women. Here, Ebenezer is a depressed, bitter aspiring-actress-turned-debt-collector whose girlfriend Marley has recently left her.

Vanderhooft follows the original plot pretty closely, keeping the darkness and the light closely intertwined and melding and rearranging parts of the story to fit the modern setting. I was impressed by the seamlessness with which the story fit into our world; that is not always the case with adaptations of classics. I was also impressed with her  evocative and unique imagery and the eerie feel of her writiny\h.

The book was recommended to me as the story of a clinically depressed lesbian–one of the fairly rare cases where her depression is not connected to her sexuality–and it absolutely rang true for me on that front–Ebenezer’s increasing bitterness, anger at herself, and hopelessness rang hearbreakingly true to me. This time, the three spirits (of Utah, New York, and the future)  help her begin rediscovering her passion, her connections to others, and her hope.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty much a theater kid for life, so Ebenezer’s love for acting and her struggle to be a part of the theater world was a big draw for me. Her self-doubt, her fixation on her failures, her anger at a younger version of herself who thought it would be easy to be successful–those are all things I’ve experienced, things I’m sure many actors have. And the rush of excitement she feels when she starts speaking on stage, the pure passion she feels deep inside even after years of struggle and depression? Also a thing. The weirdness and sense of family even through the bad parts in the theater community portrayed in the book also had me smiling and nodding my head. When I looked up the author’s bio, I was not surprised to see that she had worked in theater before.

The ending (yes, I’m going to talk about the ending, come on, you all know how A Christmas Carol ends) is optimistic but not clear cut; Ebenezer is just starting to reach out to others and climb out of her spiral and make amends to those she’s hurt, and the fact that she still has far to go is a given. It’s also made clear that she can’t erase the damage to the people she’s hurt; she can only go forward and try to be better. But at least she is going forward.

tl;dr: A dark but ultimately heartwarming female-driven holiday story about living with depression and loss and finding the passion to do what you love and the hope to continue livng; a deeply personal modern adaptation of the classic story.

Sondra 

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