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Christmas at Harrington's

Christmas at Harrington's

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Christmas at Harrington's

3.5/5 (87 Bewertungen)
185 Seiten
2 Stunden
Oct 1, 2010


Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life after false accusations landed her in prison, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret?

This tender story about fresh starts will charm readers as all of Melody Carlson's Christmas offerings do. Full of redemption and true holiday spirit, Christmas at Harrington's will be readers' newest Christmas tradition.
Oct 1, 2010

Über den Autor

Melody Carlson is the prolific author of more than 200 books for women, teens and children. The recipient of numerous writing awards including the Rita and the RT Career Achievement Award, she makes her home in Oregon with her husband.

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Christmas at Harrington's - Melody Carlson




The slate-colored sky matched Lena’s spirits as she sprinted toward the bus stop. Don’t be late, Mrs. Stanfield had warned earlier. The bus leaves promptly at 5:15 and there won’t be another until tomorrow morning.

Lena hadn’t planned to be late. But with two hours to spare, she had ducked into the public library to use the restroom and escape the elements, then found a comfy easy chair. While reading a recipe for cranberry cake in the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens, Lena had dozed off, lulled by the warmth, the flickering fluorescent lights, and the sweet, musty smell of books. If not for the librarian’s nudge, since the library closed at six, Lena would probably still be sleeping.

Instead, she was running down the sidewalk with the icy wind in her face and her purple parka flapping wildly behind her like a parachute. She waved her arms, calling frantically to the bus driver. Wait! Please, wait!

You were cutting that mighty close, he told her as he opened the door for her. Hurry up, lady, I’ve got a schedule to keep.

Thanks, she gasped breathlessly as she handed him her wrinkled ticket. I really appreciate—

Grab a seat—now. He jerked his thumb backward.

As the bus lurched forward, Lena found an empty pair of seats near the back and quickly ducked in. Scooting next to the window, she clutched her handbag in her lap with trembling hands. That had been close. But she’d made it.

Her stomach rumbled as the bus left the lights of Indianapolis behind. She’d been lucky to snag two seats together. Maybe she could use the space to lie down and really sleep. Except that she was wide awake now. As if on high alert, she watched the bus zip out into the freeway traffic. They were moving so fast that Lena felt dizzy. Was the driver speeding, or was this just one more thing she’d forgotten during her eight years in prison?

Lena tried to peer out the window, but due to the darkness outside and the reading light from the passenger in front of her, all she could see was her own dismal reflection. Pasty round face, weary blue eyes, and dishwater blonde hair in need of attention. She looked away and swallowed hard. Self-pity was something she’d learned to suppress while incarcerated. It served no purpose and could even make an inmate appear weak. And weakness, she’d learned early, was preyed upon. No, she’d quickly decided, bitter was better. And perhaps it would be better here on the outside as well.

You don’t want to return to your hometown? Mrs. Stanfield, a volunteer social worker, had asked Lena last week. The older woman had been helping make arrangements for Lena’s release. Getting out eighteen months early for good behavior had been a bit of a surprise to Lena, although she knew the women’s correctional facility was getting crowded, and a number of inmates—some with crimes much more serious than hers—had been paroled. Plus, with Christmas less than four weeks away, perhaps a spirit of goodwill had warmed the hearts of the parole board. Whatever the case, suddenly it was time for Lena to reenter the world at large.

I want a fresh start in a new town, Lena had firmly told the volunteer. Somewhere far away from Willow Creek . . . somewhere outside of Indiana.

Mrs. Stanfield frowned. But we have a much better success rate for parolees who return to their hometowns and families—it’s like a built-in support group.

Not for me, Lena said. My parents both passed away while I was in here. There’s nothing for me back in Willow Creek. She didn’t add that she suspected her parents’ illnesses and subsequent deaths, within a year of each other, were partially due to the stress and shame she’d thrust into their otherwise calm and slightly boring lives. They hadn’t lasted long enough to hear the truth. Not that they’d been listening—not to Lena anyway.

So where do you want to go? Mrs. Stanfield asked with concerned eyes.

To be honest, I don’t really care, Lena admitted.

The social worker shook her head as she studied the paperwork in front of her. I see here that you’re only forty-three. She said this as if forty-three were young. And you seem intelligent and well-spoken and is it true that you were a pastor’s wife? She looked up with raised brows.

Lena sighed, averting her eyes until her gaze landed on a faded poster about STDs that was hanging lopsided on the bulletin board behind Mrs. Stanfield. The headline read, What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You. Well, that seemed true enough.

Mrs. Stanfield cleared her throat. Lena?


I was just saying, how about if I put a release package together for you?

A release package?

Yes. I can choose what I think would be a suitable town for you, make your living arrangements, set up some temporary employment, get your transportation worked out. Would that be acceptable?

Lena slowly nodded. I would really appreciate that.

Mrs. Stanfield smiled as she closed the folder. Then we’ll do our best and trust God with the rest. Right?

Right. Lena forced a smile, but as she thanked the woman, her voice sounded flat and lifeless to her own ears. When she returned to her cell, she decided not to think about her upcoming release anymore. It wasn’t that she wanted to remain in prison. But at the same time, she couldn’t imagine life beyond prison. In fact, she couldn’t imagine life at all.

Today, when the head matron had handed Lena a rumpled grocery sack of used clothing—which included this ugly purple parka with a broken zipper, a pair of black polyester pants, and a red acrylic turtleneck sweater—Lena had wondered if she’d been naive to allow someone else, even a kindly older lady, to make arrangements for her fate and future.

Now, as the bus sped north into what seemed the heart of this winter storm, Lena clutched the worn handles of the secondhand bag and wondered about the release package tucked inside. Was she a fool to have trusted Mrs. Stanfield? But then, naïveté had once been Lena’s trademark. Even when her own trustfulness betrayed her and naive innocence deceived her, she still hadn’t grasped the magnitude of her own gullibility.

Her stomach growled again, almost as if scolding her for oversleeping in the library. Of course, her laziness had cost her dinner—her just deserts reminded her of her father’s discipline when she broke his unbendable rules. He would scowl and remind her that a rod is reserved for the backs of fools.

Lena didn’t want to think about that now. Instead she turned on her reading light and opened her oversize handbag. Despite the Ziploc of travel-size personal items and a large envelope that contained her release package, the bag was mostly empty. And it smelled funny. She extracted the envelope and looked at it. Her future was contained inside this envelope—it would likely be as bland as manila too.

Your destination is New Haven, the social worker had informed Lena as she met her outside the women’s correctional facility earlier that day.


Mrs. Stanfield shook her head. There are actually a number of New Havens in the country. In this particular New Haven, a small town in northern Minnesota, I happen to have a friend who is willing to give you a job. As she drove Lena into town, she explained that a bus ticket, directions, names, and addresses were enclosed in the envelope. You will also find a small amount of cash in there, she said before she dropped Lena off. But you’ll have to be extremely frugal until payday.

As it turned out, Lena had already been frugal by forgetting to purchase tonight’s dinner. She flipped through the small stack of bills. Two twenties, one ten, two fives, and five ones—a total of sixty-five dollars to last . . . how long? She tucked the cash into a zippered pocket and decided not to think about this either. So much not to think about. She vaguely wondered if the brain used more storage to repress memories than to remember them. She knew it took more energy.

Excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?

Lena looked up to see an elderly woman peering down at her. She had on a scarlet coat with white fur on the collar and cuffs—very Christmassy in an odd Santa sort of way. Although it looked warm.

I, uh, no . . . I guess not. Lena reluctantly moved closer to the window. If she’d been honest, she would’ve told this woman that she did indeed mind—that this seat was hers and to just move on, thank you very much. Before doing time, Lena had considered herself to be scrupulously truthful. The kind of person who followed the rules. She corrected a cashier if she received too much change, never sneaked into a movie, and always waited when the sign said Don’t Walk. Almost painfully honest. But prison had taught her how and when to lie. Nearly always for the sake of self-preservation. Now she wondered if it would be a hard habit to break—or perhaps a habit to hold on to.

The old woman sighed as she eased herself into the other seat. I always feel that two women traveling alone are safer when they pair up. My name is Moira Phillips. She stuck out a gloved hand.

I’m Lena Markham. She gently shook the old woman’s gloved hand. The smooth black gloves felt like good leather, soft and gently worn.

Lena. Moira smiled. What a pretty name. I’m reminded of the exquisite Lena Horne. Did your parents name you after her?

Actually, it’s short for Helena. Lena set her purse between herself and the window as a safety precaution. Not that she actually thought this old woman was a thief, but she just didn’t know. Cautious paranoia was another thing prison had taught her.

Helena is a lovely name too. But that Lena Horne . . . oh my, what a voice she had, and such a beautiful woman too. I saw all her movies when I was a girl. I just adored her. Goodness, I haven’t thought of her in years. Have you seen any of her films?

I’m not sure.

Of course, she was long before your time. But she was exquisite. Moira prattled on about some of the Lena Horne movies she recalled and which ones she had liked best or had seen twice. Lena pretended to listen, but mostly she wished she’d had the guts to tell Moira that she was perfectly comfortable traveling alone and wanted these seats for herself. She wondered if it was too late.

Do you think she’s still alive?

What? Lena realized Moira was expecting a response from her.

Lena Horne. Do you suppose she’s still alive?

I have no idea.

She would be rather old though. At least ninety, I’d venture.

Lena shrugged.

Moira attempted to peel off her big red coat and Lena offered a hand. That’s a nice coat, Lena said as she touched the furry cuff. Is that real fur?

Moira laughed. Just rabbit fur. My sister Lucille forced it on me when the weather snapped cold last week and I hadn’t packed a warm overcoat. Then she insisted I wear it home today. I’m sure she was only trying to get rid of it since her daughter-in-law gave it to her a few years ago and she never wore it. I only took it to make her happy. Do you really like it?

Well, it looks warm anyway. And it’s rather festive. Lena glanced at Moira’s outfit—a smoky blue tweed pantsuit with a gray turtleneck underneath and a pretty silk scarf tied loosely around her neck. A stylish contrast to the unusual coat.

So, where are you headed, Lena?

New Haven.

Oh, wonderful! That’s my final destination too. She patted Lena’s hand as if this somehow connected them. Are you going there to visit someone for the holidays?

No . . . I, uh, I’m actually relocating there.

You’re moving to New Haven?

Lena nodded. How about you? Are you visiting someone for the holidays?

"Oh, no. I was just visiting my sister Lucille over Thanksgiving. I’m on my way home now. I live in New Haven."

Lena nodded again. She suddenly felt very tired, and more than ever she wished she had the courage to tell this woman that she really needed these two seats for herself.

So what made you choose New Haven? Moira asked with curious eyes. Do you have relatives or friends there?

No. I don’t know anyone there.

Moira looked surprised. No one? Then what made you want to move there? And so close to Christmastime too?

Lena pressed her lips together. She had a choice to make right now—either tell the truth and risk offending this seemingly nice woman, or concoct a story to make both of them feel better.

I don’t mean to be nosy, Moira said quietly. It just seems an odd time to be moving, especially when you don’t know anyone in town.

Lena took a quick breath. The truth is I was just released from the women’s correctional facility and I figured New Haven was as good a place as any. There, she’d said it.

Moira blinked then slowly nodded as if absorbing this information. I see.

My parole came earlier than I expected, and I didn’t want to go home. So I’m off to a fresh start in New Haven. Lena forced a weak smile to soften the news.

Moira slowly pushed herself to her feet, and Lena felt certain that her truth tactic had succeeded—who wanted

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Was die anderen über Christmas at Harrington's denken

87 Bewertungen / 14 Rezensionen
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  • (4/5)
    Loved this Christmas story. Once again Melody knocks it out of the ball park. Way to go!
  • (3/5)
    I read this one because I loved the cover. It's June in Alabama and 100*. When I looked at the cover, I felt cooler. A woman in a red and white coat, looking at a Christmas display of a department store while snow gently falls. It was so soothing.

    Aside from the picture on the cover, the book was cute and took only about 2 hours to read. It is a bit trite, but one needs trite every now and again, and I felt myself welcoming the familiar flow, the predictability of the story and the happy ending. It focuses on a woman just released from prison, convicted of a crime for which she is innocent. Angels in human form come into her life left and right as her desire to "start over" takes one positive turn after another. After eight years in prison, she deserves it, right? It is very fairytale-like, but like I said, it was a welcome respite during this hot summer month. I will read more by this author when I need a "palate cleansing".
  • (5/5)
    Great story!
  • (3/5)
    Fun, quick entertaining Christmas season read.
  • (4/5)
    Nice quick easy read. A bit unrealistic in places, but still a fun read.
  • (4/5)
    This is the story of Lena, newly released from prison for a crime that she didn't commit. She feels vulnerable and very alone in what is a period of time for families.She is immediately plunged into the spotlight as she takes on the role of Mrs Santa at a local department store. As soon as her face is in the paper she is recognised and she is the target of unpleasantness.Lena rises above it and the story, apart from sharing the Christmas message is about forgiveness, hope and finding peace with yourself.
  • (3/5)
    A heart warming Christmas read with a strong message. If your only interest in Christmas is secular you will want to look elsewhere for your Christmas reading.

    This was not, however, your typical holiday read. The main character, Lena, is released on early parole at the beginning of the Christmas season where she embarks upon a fresh start in a small town in northern Minnesota. The plans do not go as her release package stated, but with the help of an older woman she meets on the bus on her way to the new town and the generosity of her spirit she touches the lives of many in the small town despite her own difficult circumstances. It is a good reminder of it being the season of giving.

    A found a few passages a bit heavy handed on the preaching which I think could have been toned down a tad and still been clear. In general I expect there to be messages in holiday reads, but I don't necessarily need to be hit over the head with them.
  • (4/5)
    Christmas at the Harrington's by Melody Carlson is not what I expected yet I still enjoyed it so much. By the cover, you would never expect that the woman with the red coat looking into store window is an ex-con!I picked e-book to read because of the adorable cover but when I read that the woman in the story was on a bus leaving the Indianapolis Terminal, I knew I must read it. I remember the terminal from when I used take the bus to the main campus of Indiana University after a visit with my folks.In one word, this book is "heartwarming". I loved the main character, Lena but couldn't understand her giving up and letting something horrible happen to her. After all, she is resourceful, dependable and intelligent! She didn't have a good relationship with parents and they died while she was in prison so she wanted to start over in a new place.The social worker picked New Haven, Connecticut and got a promise for Lena to have at least a temporary job at the Harrington's, a department store. The owner of the store was her friend. On the bus, an elderly lady, Moira Phillips sits down with her and shares her traveling food with her. Moira is going to New Haven, also.By the social worker's plan, Lena is supposed to stay at a boarding house (a bit run down) at the start.Lena befriends two more main characters there a mother and daughter. They are just barely getting as the mother had recently lost her job.Lena undergoes many obstacles, having been an ex-con and also having very little money to buy food and clothes. She started out with just $60. She wants to keep her past secret but that proves impossible.Lena helps people and learns many lessons, knowledge that she could have used when she was married and later convicts. In fact this book is full of lessons but they are invisible threads of this story that come together as the story finishes.I would recommend this e-book to women as the story seems to be slanted towards them.
  • (3/5)
    Good book. Easy read. About a woman falsely accused of a crime and starting fresh in a new town after being released from prison and all that entails while being considered a felon. A big dose of you get what you give but a little too sweet for me and somewhat preachy. I'd recommend it.
  • (5/5)
    CHRISTMAS AT HARRINGTON'S by Melody Carlson is a wonderful inspirational Christmas contemporary fiction set in modern day New Haven,MN.It is well written with depth,details, is fast paced and a page turner. It has redemption, forgiveness, selflessness, starting over, Christmas spirit, faith, past secrets, hopelessness,past betrayal, new hope, prison, past mistakes, holiday spirit and a new twist to Santa Claus in the mall....enter Mrs. Santa Claus. The characters are enduring, enchanting,and will keep you full of the holiday spirit. Lena, betrayed by her husband, family and friends was sent to prison for eight years for a crime she did not commit. When she is released she decides to move to a new town, New Haven,for a fresh start, where no one knows her or so she hoped. Here she befriends an older lady, a young mother,her little girl and a young girl who is fighting Leukemia. A unexpected red coat lands her a job at Harrington's as none other than... Mrs. Santa Claus. This is a wonderful Christmas story full of hope, redemption, making new friendships, and finding a fresh start. I would recommend this book especially if you enjoy a fresh look at the holiday spirit. This will be a new Christmas tradition. This book was received for the publisher for review and details can be found at Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group and My Book Addiction and More.
  • (5/5)
    One of my most favorite times of the year is Christmas. I love the colors, the feel, the sounds, and the smells. Yep, the smells! But I also love reading the Christmas stories that authors write, so, when Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson became available, I couldn't resist wanting to review it! Not only did it sound like a really sweet read, I fell in love with the cover. The cover scene really came to life for me and instantly captivated me for the story! Christmas at Harrington's is a sweet and interesting read. A woman inmate left go five years early for good behavior from a crime she insists she didn't commit ends up playing Mrs. Santa in the town of Harrington???? Now THAT is a different twist on Christmas! But, it's one with wonderful characters and messages of God's redeeming love. I loved Lena. She was a wonderful character created with love by Melody Carlson. But, my most favorite character, was sweet little Jemima, so innocent and full of hope. Jemima and Lena, I found, had something in common: they both wanted a new life and a new start that's full of happiness, even if meant being Mrs. Santa in Harrington's Department Store and having a new name. Through Lena, Jemima, one warm festive coat and God, Melody Carlson creates a story full of love,laughter and hope. Carrying a message of God's redeeming grace, and what Christmas is really all about (through the telling of Twas' the Night Before Christmas Nativity Story-also written by Melody Carlson-in which I MUST MUST MUST get!), this book is one that MUST NOT be missed by any book lover. If you love Christmas and a good story written by a wonderfully talented author, this 5 star book is the place to start this holiday season, or if you have a book lover in your life, add this to their Christmas gift list!
  • (5/5)
    I must say that I am guilty of judging a book by its cover, when I saw the cover for Christmas at Harrington's I immediately felt like it was going to be an amazing Christmas story, on the cover you find yourself on a street of any small town in the USA, you have a smiling lady, dressed in a red coat peering into a store window with a display of a Christmas tree and toys snowflakes falling all around her, its just beautiful and depicts the holiday season perfectly.In this story we are introduced to Lena Markham,its less than four weeks till Christmas and she has just been released from prison after serving and eight year sentence for a crime she didn't commit, she was set up by her husband to take the fall for something he did. She decides she wants a fresh start in a new town, so a social worker puts together a release package for her, finding a town to locate her to, setting her up with a place to live and a temporary job, and a bus trip to get her to get her there, while on the bus she meets an elderly lady, Moira who befriends her,telling Lena that she knows despite whatever happened in her past she is sure Lena is a good person. Once they get off the bus together in New Haven, MN she is introduced to Moira's son Sam, who is a lawyer. She soon realizes that the job that she anticipated isn't there, and the only job available is playing Mrs. Santa. Can Lena find the new start in this town she hopes for, and can she keep her past a secret, and what about Sam, how does he play into all of this, you need to read this heartwarming story of second chances to find out!While the story that unfolded inside the pages of this book wasn't exactly what I anticipated , it is exactly what the holiday season is all about, a perfect Christmas read filled with hope, inspiration and second chances.Even though I was provided a copy of this book for review by Revell Publishing it in no way alters my opinion of this book.
  • (4/5)
    Cute story. I wasn’t sure of what the outcome would be entirely. Very sweet though. I definitely like this author.
  • (2/5)
    A pleasant holiday read.

    I didn't appreciate the treatment of the only Jewish character in the book. I realize this is a "christian" based story by a Christian author,but I didn't see the need for the intolerant attitude toward the Jewish character. What was the purpose of it?There were no characters of other faiths to be bashed,so why include this one at all except to be elitist.This was unnecessary event in the book and contributed nothing to the story.