Giver of Wonders (2016) by Roseanna M. White is a novel that illustrates a truer picture of St. Nicholas than what the world has sadly turned him into. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is roughly 266 pages in length. With a full-time job and a five-year old, I read this book in five days (this is an incredibly fast-paced novel, but in the middle of the week I got very sick, so that hindered my reading time). I give this novel 5+ STARS. It is a clean Biblical/Historical novel.
Before I begin with my review, I want to quote the author on why she wrote this novel. I think it puts the purpose of this book into perfect perspective.
“My prayer is that you read this interpretation of who Nikolaos may have been as a young man, you come to appreciate that he was so much more than our traditions today give him credit for being. My prayer is that we can all take a few cues from him…that our gifts become less about us. And more about [God].”
–Roseanna M. White
I admit, that I dislike most holidays. I dislike most holidays for many reasons. First, and possibly foremost, my parents divorced when I was 12 and holidays became days filled with fights and tension. They became days I dread to this very day. I specifically dislike Thanksgiving and Christmas. On those days, we would have to maneuver between my mom and dad’s houses. There was always bad blood and bad words. It’s really hard to explain the type of tension I feel when holidays come around (unless, maybe you have experienced the small slice of hell that is angry, fighting, tense divorced parents), so this may make no sense. But, to this day I hate when holidays come up. For me, it is not a time of rest and laughter and love. It is a time of guilt-induced stress: someone will be left out, and I HATE it. But, I also hate these days because they are SO fake. Even people who claim to love Jesus, really make these holidays about the turkeys and the gifts given.
Why explain my dislike of holidays in a book review? Because I bought this book a year ago, and kept putting it off. I put off reading it because I struggled coming to a book I already knew would be about Christmas and St. Nicholas. I only bought the book because it is written by White, and her other novels are amazing, and I wanted to support that talent, but I was not excited to read it like I have been with her other novels. I should have read the Note from the Author pages when I bought this book. Then I would have read Ms. White’s intentions for the book, and would have realized that this book is not about Christmas as it is today. It is not about commercialism, nor is it about a jolly, fat man and elves and reindeer. This book is about a man who loved GOD so much he sacrificed everything in order to serve HIM. This book is amazing. It made me laugh, cry (often — there is a really mean father in this book), cheer, and hold my breath in anticipation. At one point, I genuinely looked at my husband and commented that I didn’t know how this book could possibly have a happy ending (it does though!).
The characters in this book are genuine and absolutely believable. The main characters are Cyprus, Petros, and Nikolaos. Cyprus is a 14 year old woman, Petros is the man in love with Cyprus, and Nikolaos (who also loves Cyprus) is Petros’s cousin and best friend. He is also the man who will one day be a Christian legend. What I love so much about this novel is the real-to-life scenarios and emotions that her characters find themselves in: moments where they are unsure how to do the things God wants them to do, moments where their faith is tested, moments where their emotions are brought to the brink or rawness, moments where they have to make a hard choice — do they make the right one and please God, or the wrong one and choose themselves?
What White does so well in this novel is illustrate how knowledge of the right thing to do constantly battles with the emotions clogging brains begging them to do the selfish, wrong thing. True to life, we are met with choices every day. Many times, we listen to the Voice of God and feel in our chests the right answer, but chose the thing that will make us feel good in that moment. This novel does a good job exploring this issue.
And, of course, this novel does touch on the notion of gift giving. The ultimate gift ever given to man was that of Jesus Christ. God gave HIS one and only beautiful, perfect Son to people who hate Him, who curse Him, who deny Him. There is no other gift in this world more perfect than Jesus. And, Nikolaos got this. He understood that the best gift to give is the anonymous kind. Why? Because ultimately we humans feel indebted to the one who gives a gift. We humans then try to pay back the gift with a gift of our own. Then we lose sight of who we need to bless. In the novel, Nikolaos explains, “They cannot know Dorus. They will feel indebted to me. They will try for the rest of their lives to pay me back–or else they will shout of my generosity far and wide, and this will become about me rather than about God. And that is not what a gift should be. Not about the giver. A gift, a true gift given from nothing but love, should be done in secret. So that God alone sees. So that the giver’s only reward is what the Lord decides to bestow. Not even the joy of seeing their joy. Just the joy of knowing one did what one ought” (242, emphasis is mine). This is what giving should be about. It should show the person receiving the gift a picture of God, not a picture of me. All praise is God’s, and should forever be!
This novel is amazing. I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those who need a reminder that holidays are still God’s, and that there are still people out there willing and wanting to do the right thing for God’s sake.