Family reunions open the door for comedy, as well as uncomfortable revelations. In The Frayed Ribbon, a holiday gathering serves up a little bit of both for one family.
The story opens with a flashback to Gail’s high-risk pregnancy and a promise she made to a little girl she met while in the hospital for bed rest. Little Lexie is waking up alone after reconstructive surgery following a car accident (her parents were sent to another hospital), and Gail offers to share a room with her, promising the girl she’d be there for her. But then Gail is discharged.
Fast-forward 16 years and Gail is still trying to find the girl. She’s also on a quest to locate her own birth mother who gave her up for adoption, and hosting a Christmas reunion for her fractured and fractious immediate family. No pressure!
Author R.W. Hart gets some elements just right. When Gail’s feast for the reunion’s first night is conveniently destroyed, the family ends up eating an entire canceled wedding’s worth of Mexican food—the only option available from a caterer preparing for his own holidays—with amusing consequences. Some comic bits involving Gail’s teenage son Jason are also rewarding.
There are some flaws, as well; Gail’s younger daughter Amber sometimes seems like a toddler and sometimes much older. Dialogue can be stiff between characters who should have easy rapport. And there are improbable contrivances: Two characters besides Gail reveal that they, too, were adopted, and Gail finds closure on one of her issues on the very last page, making this seem more fairy tale than comic novel.
The Frayed Ribbon needs polish in regard to character voice and consistency, and more insight about adoption and the search for birth parents would enrich the narrative. Still, it’s a warm Christmas story full of family values. Readers who appreciate a breezy tale should enjoy its low-key humor and the grudging yet genuine affection among family members.
Also available as an ebook.