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Reviewed by Deborah Stone for Readers' Favorite
In Christmas Stray by Rachelle Ayala, Gabe and Juliette Martin head off to a cabin in the woods to spend Christmas together. A time to be alone and find out if their strained marriage can be salvaged. Christmas Eve the year before, their six-year-old son, Jeremiah, died of leukemia and Juliette has been lost in her grief ever since. She had prayed to God for a miracle, but Jeremiah still died. Their time at the cabin would give Juliette and Gabe a chance to reconnect, if it's not too late. They find a stray puppy and his companion, a young boy, during a snow storm. Gabe and Juliette take them both inside the warm cabin and, as they wait out the severe storm, Patrick and the puppy may just be the Christmas miracle that Juliette has prayed for. How will she deal with turning Patrick back over to his own family when the storm passes?
Rachelle Ayala's characters are well thought out and the emotions of grief and loss are well defined. As Gabe and Juliette still mourn the loss of their only child, this strange boy appears to fill that void, if only temporarily. Juliette struggles to open her heart to feel love again for her husband and this temporary family. Rachelle Ayala's unexpected ending is both touching and delightful, and puts a smile on your face while it warms your heart. God is gracious and merciful and we see the evidence of that in Gabe and Juliette's unexpected and unusual Christmas miracle. This is a delightful story with a heartwarming and tender ending. I enjoyed reading it and plan to read more of this author's work.