My new book, The Secret of Snow, is much more than just my first “holiday novel.” It’s a deeply personal story about family, faith, forgiveness, overcoming grief and second chances.
Growing up, my family personified the holidays. My mother and father were a real-life Mr. and Mrs. Klaus, my grandma (Viola Shipman, my pen name), drenched her home in lights and filled her yard with dancing inflatables. She had the most beautiful heirloom Christmas ornaments and bought so many gifts for our family that she had to create a walkway through her living room.
But my brother, Todd, loved winter and the holidays most of all. Todd loved nothing more than cutting down a pine from our woods every year, dragging it into the house and drenching it in tinsel.
But when he died in a tragic accident when he was just 17, and I was 13, it crushed our family and our holidays. We were grief stricken, and the holidays only magnified our pain.
I expected future Christmases to come and go as quietly as a church mouse, but the following December I walked into the living room one evening to find my mother putting up a tree she had cut down herself. My mom, a hospice nurse, patted the carpet, and I took a seat.
“Think of how much your brother loved this holiday,” she whispered to me, tears in her eyes. “Why are we all trying so hard to forget about him? We shouldn’t just cast our memories away. We should start treating Todd like he’s still here. Because he is. And always will be.”
In the midst of all the holiday cheer, there rarely is room for grief. But these past two years have magnified the loneliness for too many Americans. We’ve lost over 600,000 parents, grandparents, siblings and friends to Covid, and we too often forget these aren’t just numbers, they’re names, like Todd, and my father-in-law, George, who died of Covid. There will be too many empty chairs at the table, and too many empty holes under the tree and in our hearts. And those of us who are suffering too often try to hide from the holidays, praying they will pass as quickly as Santa’s sleigh.
The Secret of Snow is a beautiful reminder that, no matter if those we love are no longer with us, family still surrounds us. It is a gentle reminder to reach out to those who need a hug, to let them know you care and that the names of all we’ve lost and still love shimmer as brightly as tinsel, and that their memories will never fade away as long as we refuse to let them.
Publisher’s Weekly gave the novel a rave, writing, “Shipman delivers a beautifully written story about second chances … while also sensitively handling difficult topics … Fans of women’s fiction won’t be able to put this down!”
The Secret of Snow might be my favorite novel to date because it is so meaningful to me. I hope it speaks to your heart and that you consider buying a copy for yourself and gifting a copy to someone you love.
Wishing you the most fabulous of falls, the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of holidays!