Moments of enchantment found in this flavourful anthology

Hot Apple Cider: Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul.
N.J. Lindquist and Wendy Elaine Nelles, eds.

That’s Life! Communications, 2008.
296 pages.


Hot Apple Cider is sweeter than chicken soup and sometimes tastier.

Along with the heartwarming, real-life stories we expect from a Chicken Soup-style book, the editors of this collection have tossed in some surprises. There is poetry, short fiction, and some tart essays on drug addiction, poverty, and the plight of Third World women. Indeed, these thirty Canadian Christian writers have cooked up a flavourful anthology with broad appeal.

For aspiring writers, the resources in the last 17 pages alone are worth the cover price. The contributor section is a who’s who of The Word Guild (a Canadian organization dedicated to promoting writers and editors who are Christian), complete with a photograph and publishing history for each author. Since many of the stories are magazine reprints or book excerpts, this book sheds light on trends in North American Christian publishing.

Speaking of trends, it’s encouraging to see some of the writers in this anthology paying such careful attention to their writing style. Readers know there’s instant apple cider made with pulverized chemicals and boiled water. Then there is apple cider made with pressed apple juice mulled over low heat, seasoned with freshly ground spices, and served in a Royal Doulton mug. There is utilitarian writing and there is artistic writing.

Indeed, there are a few stories in Hot Apple Cider – particularly those by M.D. Meyer and Marcia Lee Laycock – that are served Royal Doulton-style. But not all achieve this calibre of artistry.

Unfortunately, some of the stories in this collection have more in common with the first kind of apple cider; they’re warm and apple-flavoured but entirely forgettable. The message is there but the medium, the writing style, is watery and there are unmelted bits left swirling at the bottom of your Styrofoam cup. The hurry to publish and be validated in earthly terms seems to quash the practice of mulling and mulling and mulling some more, until the words on the page become nothing less than enchanting – C.S. Lewis enchanting.

That said, there are moments of enchantment to be had in this cup of Hot Apple Cider, moments where the words on the page disappear and readers are carried away into the authors’ imaginings. I encourage book lovers to taste this flavourful offering, to sip from the Royal Doulton mugs, the Styrofoam cups, and every other mug in-between.

—Laura Thomas

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