Baby Starts the
Wedding March

 
A Bundle of Miracles by Amy Frazier
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1354, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24354-5
****
Throughout high school and college, Abbie Latham and Ben Chase were inseparable: she, the brains, he, the brawn, but together, a couple destined to marry and raise their children in the old Victorian cottage they fantasized about buying someday.

But someday never comes for the couple. Suddenly and without any good-byes, Abbie and her parents leave Point Narrows, selling their house and leaving no forwarding address. Ben suspects that Abbie has left because she is pregnant - since he's from the wrong side of tracks, he figures that Abbie's parents have whisked her away. He also hears through the grapevine that Abbie left town because of a serious health problem, but since he has no way of tracking her down, he must continue with his life.

Eight years later, Abbie returns to the small Maine town and runs smack into Ben, now the town's police chief, as a local real estate agent shows her the old Arrondise cottage -the same cottage she and Ben planned on buying for their own family in the future. Abbie wants to set the things straight - why she left town for a new life in Texas, and who she is now. As the newly hired town librarian, she hopes to fit back into her childhood home and fulfill some of her unfinished dreams. Ben, understandably hostile and lugging a sack full of abandonment issues from childhood, seems to want nothing more than to forget the one woman he ever loved.

The first day on the job, Abbie finds a bundle on the library doorstep. Someone has abandoned a little baby boy, so she's forced to call Ben. When social services can't find a foster family to take the child during the investigation, Abbie volunteers to care for "Baby" with Ben's supervision.

Abbie is up-front with Ben about why she left town so abruptly: she had breast cancer and didn't want him to have to deal with the uncertainty of what life would be like with her - or of life without her. Years of being cancer-free have given her a new appreciation for life, and she's determined to live each day fully and with joy. She harbors no bitterness for the cancer that ate away many of her dreams.

Abbie battled most of her demons in the backstory of A Bundle of Miracles; Ben fights his during most of the tale. And Amy Frazier does a wonderful job at painting the arc of Ben's emotions - the anger, the confusion, the helplessness, and finally, his acceptance of the past. Yet Abbie has her challenges. She is no longer the girl that Ben loved in college; she's a woman who is scarred, physically and emotionally, and it's with courage that she reveals herself to the man she once loved.

A Bundle of Miracles was a thoroughly enjoyable novel in so many ways. At first glance, I thought this was "just another baby book." A couple chapters into the story, I realized there was more to the tale. Frazier's writing style is easy, yet compelling, chuckle inducing, yet sensitive where it needed to be. I liked the hero and heroine, as well as the colorful secondary characters, and felt that Frazier did a great job portraying the quirks of life in a small town. As much as I like cowboys and sprawling ranches, it was a pleasure to read a romance novel set amongst lobstermen and Cape-style homes. My only disappointment with the story was near the end, when Frazier wraps things up a little too neatly with Abbie and Ben, with Abbie sounding more like a therapist than a lover as she convinces Ben to release the past.

A Bundle of Miracles was a most satisfying read for a cold, blustery fall day. It reminded me of how important it is to live in the moment, to really appreciate the beauty of a child's soft cheek or the glimpse of the season's first snowflake. I salute Frazier for knitting a heartwarming love story, while poignantly handling the issues that breast cancer survivors deal with in real life.

--Diana Burrell


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