The “lovely and memorable tale” (Luis Carlos Montalván, New York Times bestselling author) of a wounded warrior and his younger brother who discover the true meaning of the Christmas holiday in this timeless story of family bonds.
As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, the stress and strain darken the family.
Then Taylor’s service dog arrives—a large black Labrador/Great Dane named Thor. His brother even got the dog! When Miller goes out on Christmas Eve with his father’s axe, determined to get his family the tree they can’t afford, he takes the dog for company—but accidentally winds up lost in the wild forest. In the midst of this emergency, the splintered family must come together and rediscover their strengths, family bond, and the true meaning of Christmas.
A Lowcountry Christmas Chapter 1 WASHINGTON, DC NOVEMBER 30, 2010 Taylor I’m going home for Christmas. Back to McClellanville and the ocean. Back to my family.
I’m proud to be the son of a shrimper. While some men look at wide-open fields and think of planting, we McClellans stare out at the water and think of shrimp. Shrimping is hard work—long hours laboring under a relentless sun, straining muscles against nets dragged from the sea bulging with shrimp. My hands bear scars from years of separating shrimp from bycatch. Backbreaking work . . . and exhilarating. It’s in our blood. Out on the water we’re saltwater cowboys, untamed, unbridled, and free. Mavericks riding the water. I’m proud to bear the McClellan name. For as long as I can remember, my father, Alistair—everyone calls him the Captain—has steered the Miss Jenny, named after my mother, the largest shrimp boat in the fleet. I worked on the Miss Jenny as soon as I could walk. That’s the way it is in the business—family pitches in.
I’m proud to wear the ring. I graduated from the Citadel in Charleston, the first man in my family to graduate from college. It’s a rare sight to see one’s father so proud his eyes tear up. Especially a sea-hardened man such as the Captain. I’ll never forget it.
I’m proud to be a Marine. I’m the son of a sailor and the most recent in a long line of men who’ve served their country in foreign wars. After graduating I immediately entered the Corps as an officer. “Dare to Lead” the Citadel challenged us, and that’s what I did. After training I shipped off to the Middle East to lead a platoon. Our mission was to maintain a defensive perimeter in Afghanistan. We patrolled a vast area of desert, seeking out contraband and insurgents, racing across burning sand in hot pursuit of smugglers with small caches of weapons and ordnance. Small villages yielded the same.
You might not believe me, but the desert and the ocean are similar. They’re both immense in a way that defies comprehension. I’ve ridden in a Humvee across miles of endless sand under a merciless sun and sailed a shrimp boat on the dark sea when the dawn broke across the horizon, and in both places I felt the vastness. It made me feel small and insignificant. Isolated and alone. Both desert and sea are unforgiving terrain and don’t tolerate fools.
I’m proud that I’m a good leader. I don’t say that with conceit. I say this so you understand why I feel the burden of guilt for being sent home while some of my men will never make it back.
The Bible says that pride goeth before a fall. I’m here to tell you that’s true.
Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is beginning. Instead of joy, however, I feel the terror of my war memories lurking inside my brain like one of those damned IEDs just waiting for the right trigger to explode and tear me apart, the way one did on a dusty Afghanistan road. The bomb shattered my bones and burned my body and soul. Yet they call me lucky.
I’m going home because the doctors say I’m recovered. I can only shake my head and think, What fools. My fractured bones might be healed, but my brain certainly isn’t. The scars in my mind are the wounds that cut the deepest. I didn’t want to leave the hospital—I felt safe there. I’m more comfortable with other injured servicemen like me than I am with my family. But they said I had to leave, so I did. I got a cheap apartment near the hospital. I holed up, afraid to go out, to deal with the public. I grew isolated, lonely. The doctors told me to go see my family for the holidays. Where do you go but home when there’s no place else to go? So, as the song says, I’ll be home for Christmas.
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of two dozen novels, including The Summer Girls, The Summer Wind, The Summer’s End,A Lowcountry Wedding, A Lowcountry Christmas, Last Light Over Carolina, Time Is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Four Seasons, The Book Club, The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, Beach House for Rent, and Beach House Reunion. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. In 2018 she was inducted into the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. Her novel, The Beach House was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.