Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)
Sixty-two years after the Christmas that forever changed George Bailey, George’s grandson, a wealthy real estate tycoon in New York, has veered far away from what his grandfather taught him. The town a number of the Baileys hail from, Bedford Falls, seems to have lost its way as well. It’s about time for another visit from Clarence, a guardian angel who now has his wings, in Bedford Falls: The Story Continues, a novel by author Anne Morse.
I’ll admit I don’t usually read classic work continuations written by people other than the original authors. It just doesn’t feel authoritative enough to me, like, “Who’s to say that’s what did or should have happened next? I could make up my own continuation too, and it may or may not match what was in the original author’s heart.”
However, the affirmation of an actual cast member from It’s a Wonderful Life is what moved me to step outside of my usual boundary and read this book. And, my goodness gracious—am I ever glad I did.
I think it can be easy to romanticize the 1946 film and to regard it as just some whimsical Christmas fairy tale with a happy ending while forgetting or missing the real breadth and depth of the story. One thing I most respect about this novel is that it isn’t a fairy tale, merely romanticizing the Baileys and Bedford Falls, lacking the film’s depth. Morse is clearly someone with a true grasp on the significance of the motion picture, and the complexity and spirit of the poignant continuation she’s woven together does the film justice.
Sure, the book has its minor weaknesses, sometimes in sentence structure, and while the typographical errors aren’t numerous, a few of them are a little jarring. There are also times when the characters’ reminiscing can feel somewhat unrealistic. (For instance, I don’t think a grown Zuzu Bailey would remember a long-ago speech of her father’s word for word, particularly when she wasn’t born at the time and only later heard the news secondhand from Uncle Billy, whom I wouldn’t trust to have relayed the speech verbatim. Dear Uncle Billy likely would have summarized or exaggerated, added his own embellishments for the parts he couldn’t remember, or what have you.)
Nevertheless, this is a moving and excellent piece of storytelling that packs in much for fans of Frank Capra’s masterpiece to appreciate. It hit me in so many places, and by the Epilogue, I was sobbing so hard I had to set the book aside for a good five or ten minutes before I could finish it. This novel is going right up on my list of all-time favorite books.