Looking for a great holiday read? The Boys Upstairs by Jane Lebak is a delightful Christmas novella. The “boys” are homeless kids that Fr. Jay Farrell has taken in and sheltered in the upstairs of St. Gus’s rectory. Fr. Jay has little in the way of material goods and the priest is continuously depending on the generosity of others to help feed and shelter the children.
At the beginning of the story, Officer Kevin Farrell (Fr. Jay’s estranged brother) shows up at St. Gus’s rectory with three more children who need a place to stay until an appropriate foster home can be found. They had run away from their (different) foster homes because they wanted to stay together and were later found in a luggage alcove at the local bus station. Kevin knows that his brother will not refuse so it’s no surprise that Fr. Jay welcomes the children.
Fr. Jay is a veteran of the Iraq War. After a near death experience (which has left him with some lasting disabilities) he was inspired to serve God and others as a priest. However, his relationship with his brother, Kevin, is tumultuous, at best.
Kevin has his own issues with the holiday season. Two years ago on Christmas Eve, he had to inform a mother that her daughter had been killed in an accident. The incident haunts him particularly during the season and is one of the reasons for his current lack of faith.
The cast of supporting characters include Holly, a friend and waitress of the local diner, Mrs. D. the kind and generous secretary, Bill, Kevin’s partner, and numerous emotionally scarred children who comprise the “boys upstairs.”
I learned a new vocabulary word in this book: one of the characters uses “voluntold,” to describe someone else volunteering them for a task. I laughed out loud when I read this word, as I have also been “voluntold” to do things many times.
This is a wonderfully captivating and entertaining Christmas story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Boys Upstairs is filled with believable, well-defined characters, extraordinary writing and good morals. The author says it best: “The Boys Upstairs examines the real gift of the holiday season and how hope can transform the ones society condemns as not worth saving.”
I highly recommend this short novel to everyone. At 100 pages, it is the ideal length to curl up in front of a warm fire and read in one sitting.
The publisher and author have generously offered to give away a free e-book to one lucky reader of my blog. Just leave a comment in response to this review before eleven p.m. Tuesday (December 21st) evening and you’ll be entered into the contest to win this entertaining novel!
To purchase the book: http://tinyurl.com/jlebak
Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach