I have holiday envy. There, I’ve said it. Whether it be Passover or Ramadan, Diwali or the Mooncake Festival, there is barely an international observance, whether religious or otherwise, that I would not wish to have as part of my cultural heritage. Oh, sure, we in Australia get our fair share of awesomely unique celebrations—in my home city of Melbourne, we get a day off for a horse race, and even the Federal Parliament takes a break to see which horse will run fastest on that magical first Tuesday in November. But as cool as that is (and it is), it is the fourth Thursday in November that has long fascinated me, my knowledge of it gleaned almost wholly from TV, movies and, of course, books: the American Thanksgiving.
I don’t recall exactly when I first learned about this most excellent of occasions, but I am pretty sure it was from shows the likes of Little House on the Prairie, Family Ties and Diff’rent Strokes. There would be schoolhouse pageants about the Pilgrims and their unwontedly gracious guests, family dining tables groaning under the weight of exotic-sounding dishes like pumpkin pie and candied yams, and bewildering sporting contests ardently followed by all the males of the house. From Charlie Brown to President Bartlet, and from Holly Hunter in Home for the Holidays to Katie Holmes in Pieces of April, if there is a story involving a family gathering designed to give thanks to...whatever it is you’re all so thankful for, then I am completely in.
Imagine my delight, then, when I long ago discovered Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich, several years after its 1988 release date, but also several before Stephanie Plum made Evanovich beloved outside the confines of Loveswept fandom (the book has since been rereleased, back in 2006). It is the delightful tale of Megan Murphy and Dr. Patrick Hunter, instant enemies who soon become friends—and then more than friends—as they team up to care for an abandoned baby, all the while navigating the many family dramas inherent in this particular titular affair. Full of its author’s signature zaniness, the novel also brings a tangible sense of occasion to the tale, especially as it is set in Colonial Williamsburg, than which I don’t think I can even imagine a more appropriate locale to celebrate this particular event.