Ruth’s First Christmas Tree

Here are the reviews of the two Christmas stories I finished last month.  Sorry it took so long to get these to you!  Enjoy!

Ruth’s First Christmas Tree

by Elly Griffiths

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It is three days before Christmas and a bitter wind is blowing across Norfolk.

Until her daughter was born, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway didn’t do Christmas, but now that Kate is a year old, she wants it to be special.

She must get a tree, shop for food, clean the house, buy presents, including one for her new boyfriend—who she isn’t even sure is her boyfriend—and remember to get the turkey out of the freezer.

But time is rushing by and the best-laid plans don’t always work out …

Professional archaeologist Ruth is determined to give her daughter, Kate, a proper Christmas and the first item on her to-do list is to purchase a Christmas tree.  It is the first time for Ruth to celebrate Christmas as an adult and she is struggling to wrap her analytical mind around such a faith based holiday.  Her day involves a Christmas party, a blizzard, a missing wooden artifact, and a unique tree.  All help Ruth realize that the perfect Christmas tree is definitely worth the work.

I was excited about this short story because I was interested to read how Ruth’s academic mind would approach the Christian holiday.  I have a background in archaeology and am a devout Christian which, in my experience, is a rare combination.  Ruth looked at Christmas exactly how I expected her to; analytically, but she is still quite a complex character.

I really wanted to like Ruth’s First Christmas Tree.  I like the premise but the story was just too undeveloped.  The writing was raw and there were too many loose ends.  The missing wooden artifact, which Griffiths utilizes strictly as an extra plot tool as it has nothing to do with Christmas or a Christmas tree, needed to be explained in greater detail.  Go all out if you plan to use such a plot tool.  Griffiths tells you the history of the missing artifact and how Ruth eventually finds it, but that’s it!  Why was it where Ruth found it?  What was the culprit’s reasoning for taking the piece?  Will he be brought to justice?  All these unanswered question just left me irked.  Now, I know this short story is part of a large series so hopefully these questions will be answered in the next novel, but they still should have been discussed in Ruth’s First Christmas Tree.

I did my best to connect with Ruth, but she read a bit too judgy.  For example: it was acceptable for her to have a child out of wedlock due to an affair with a married man but heinous that her boss did the exact same thing except left his wife to marry his mistress….that doesn’t make sense at all.  Nor did some of her rash behavior.  Kate pulls the tree down as soon as Ruth puts it up and Ruth’s immediate response is to just throw the tree outside?  Yeah, I don’t get it.

I enjoyed Griffiths’ cast of diverse characters and I may have enjoyed the story more if I had read the first few novels in the series.  I think Griffiths has the ability to tell a good story; I just feel that Ruth’s First Christmas Tree warranted more editing.  Definitely check out Griffiths if you are interested in archaeologist stories because she nailed the academic archaeologist personality.

Have you read any of Griffiths’ work?  What do you think?

Lindsay

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