Mini Review: A Lot Like Christmas by Connie Willis

About mini reviews:

Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .

I’ve had Connie Willis recommended to me by two bloggers now, but in my search for their specified books, I found A Lot Like Christmas, which was fortuitous, because my spouse and I were about to drive several long, slow hours into central Michigan for Christmas during the aftermath of a blizzard. Fun!

I wasn’t aware of an older edition, but my audiobook says Willis’s collection has been expanded to twelve festive stories. Before the fiction, however, is a section in which Willis explains her feelings on Christmas, and I recommended you give it a read/listen. There’s a bit of history in there, plus reminders of Christmas stories that have been told in the past, from the traditional to the “out there bonkers.” It was one of the few introductions I can recall that improved the reading experience.

Of the twelve stories there were only three that I did not enthusiastically enjoy, though I think it’s because those stories would have been better if I’d read them instead of listened. Sometimes, certain types of stories are hard to me to follow along with if I miss one detail that isn’t repeated, such as why a Sherlock Holmes-type detective was invited to Christmas dinner in “Cat’s Paw.” I was also confused about the significance of a snowpocalypse across the entire United States, at the exact same time, in “Just Like the Ones We Used to Know.” However, I could have cleared up my confusion by flipping back a few pages with a text version.

Otherwise, the stories were inventive and festive, combining a touch of science fiction with Christmas, such as in “All About Emily,” the tale of an AI robot that looks like a real girl, who wants to be a Rockette despite the ethical dilemma surrounding her ability to change her “skin” (like an avatar) and upload the dance routines compared to the limited number of dancers hired. Or, the rather long story about aliens that arrived on Earth and seem to want nothing — until during a trip to the mall during Christmas when they simultaneously sit on the floor in “All Seated on the Ground.” I was also tickled imagining a future in which you can outsource your entire Christmas, from decorations to the meals prepared, with a company that can deliver a anything from a Victorian Christmas theme to something that celebrates your favorite actor or movie in “deck.halls@boughs/holly.” The options were hilarious, highlighting the complicated tangle between Christmas and consumerism.

Sometimes I struggle with short stories collections because just as I’m getting into one story, it’s over and I must enter another to learn the rules of its world. Yet, Willis makes sure each story has a full arc (probably why they’re so long) and a solid ending. Also, the stories are unique, meaning I didn’t mix any up, nor did I get bored. I would highly recommend Willis’s collection, and while the production quality of the audio narration is good, and you get some variety with a few different narrators, A Lot Like Christmas can be enjoyed in text or audio versions.


  1. Sounds like the sort of short story collection I like Melanie, but I do agree with you about not all narratives working in audio form, though I guess I have found that more with novels than short stories. However, I can see the same issues could apply to short stories too!


    • Another blogger recommended Doomsday Clock, so I’ve got that one and To Say Nothing of the Dog on my TBR. I just need some time to get to them! My summer will be slower (I think) despite me still taking a few classes.


  2. “Connie Willis has won … more major science fiction awards than any other writer” and I have never heard of her until this minute. I think you had better disregard everything I say about SF and women’s SF in particular, from hereon.
    But short stories – That learning the new rules thing every 10 or 20 pages is why I much prefer novels.


    • Bill, I would guess each story is more like 30 or 40 pages. They’re so immersive and complete, so it feels more like you’re reading little novels. Then, the entire location, approach to sci-fi, kinds of characters — everything, really — would change, so that made it easy for me to jump right in. Some other collections feel like the author has written about him/herself over and over, and each story is a variation on a personal theme. I hope you get Willis; Lou recommends Doomsday Clock, which is a novel.


  3. So glad you enjoyed these! Despite my love for Willis’ work, I’ve found her very inconsistent, so I think maybe a short story collection would work well for me – because if she does something I can’t make sense of we’ll be into a different world quickly enough.


    • All the sci-fi elements made sense, although the three stories I mentioned that I didn’t love would be better in text form (for me). I’m sure there is a reason for what’s happening, I’ve simply missed it. I can see families sitting around a fire around Christmastime, just hanging out and listening to this book.


  4. When I listen to audiobooks I mostly do nonfiction, and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a short story collection on audio. Nonfiction is easier for me to absorb on audio for some reason. With the exception of the terrific Harry Potter audiobooks. I’m glad you enjoyed this one!


  5. I really like the sounds of this one, especially if the stories are a bit longer. That’s something I always struggle with as a reader – entering the new rules of a new story so quickly after getting into the last one. It’s alot of hard work for a reader, and for someone like me who likes things to be comfortable, it’s a challenge. Also, Christmas stories are fun LOL


    • I know you would review that Christmas collection each year for a while, and most of the stories were super short and not about the holiday season at all. Actually, this collection might be more akin to what you were hoping for.

      Liked by 1 person

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