Bedford Falls: The Story Continues by Anne Morse

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.

Bedford Falls: The Story Continues by Anne Morse

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.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life: I Met Zuzu Bailey!

books-by-karolyn-zuzu-grimes

Karolyn Grimes, actress and author

Karolyn Grimes, actress and author

That’s right! Zuzu, one of the daughters of George and Mary Bailey from my all-time favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life–classic, iconic, superb, and such a holiday staple.

Zuzu is actually actress and author Karolyn Grimes. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting her at this year’s Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival in Washington. And I came away with two of Karolyn’s books!

I picked up Celebrating It’s a Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On, since, yes, I’m all about hope and inspiration in life. Karolyn was also super-kind to share a copy of her brand new children’s book, Zuzu’s Petals: A Dream of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with beautiful illustrations by author and illustrator Karen Deming.

An autograph from "Zuzu"!

An autograph from “Zuzu”!

And, yes, I’m still reeling over this, folks. Never in my life would I have imagined meeting someone from the film I’ve watched and enjoyed every year for as long as I can remember. In a sense, I’m still growing into the 1946 film as an adult, as its powerful message unfolds for me on new levels, the more times I watch it.

You can learn about Karolyn, her books, and more at her website, and also check out Karen Deming’s books and artwork here.

Now, then. I suppose I can consider this my unofficial and early kick off of Christmas this year. 😀 The official kick off will be next week, when I announce my annual Christmas Book Picks!

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“Look, Daddy! Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” ~Zuzu Bailey

Celebrating It's A Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On Zuzu's Petals, A Dream of 'It's a Wonderful Life'

 

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films 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.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) from Liberty Films (II)
Not Rated. Drama, Romance, Family Film, Christmas

My thoughts: So, so, so, SO much more than a Christmas movie. But quite the Christmas movie, just the same.

So many from different generations now know the story of the one-of-a-kind George Bailey (James Stewart), a young, ambitious man intent on getting out of his hometown of Bedford Falls to “see the world” and “do something big and important.” But there’s always something to foil George’s plans and keep him where he is, particularly the Bailey family business (the Building & Loan), his own growing family, and the town that needs him. What will it take for George to realize just how wonderful of a life he has, just the way it is?

Even with his full acting career and the fact that I enjoy watching him in other films, James Stewart is George Bailey to me, as I’m sure he is to countless others who also watch George’s classic life story every year. Mary, Clarence, Harry, even old Mr. Potter, and the people of Bedford Falls help to keep the holiday of all holidays what it is for the lot of us: wonderful.

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