What Readers Are Saying
I loved this book. Actually I read it in two days! The raw emotion shown by all the characters was intense. This book offers so many emotional moments. A father who, after so many years, is still dealing with his experience with WWII. A wife and mother dealing with terminal illness. A young son who goes off to fight in vietnam and his life changes forever. A sister who wants peace in her family . . . and a baby who will show them all the importance of forgiveness.
This modern nativity story has me crying throughout the book. I have never been so reminded of God's unending Grace as I was through One Holy Night. A great story for this time of year and always! I highly recommend this book to be read by all! This would make a wonderful Christmas gift for the book lover in your life.
“While I draw this fleeting breath,
One Holy Night is J.M. Hochstetler’s fourth novel, and within its pages you will discover the most beautiful modern-day essence of Christ’s nativity, mercy, and grace you’ve read in a very long while! Set amid the turmoil of the Viet Nam War, the McRae family’s story is one riddled with difficult situations and trials that rock the foundation of their faith.
Frank, father to Mike and Julie, is particularly torn as his son leaves for a war he doesn’t believe in, and his wife Maggie must engage in a fight for her very life against an unseen enemy. Frank is still battling his own nightmares from his time fighting in the Pacific during WWII. From the very first pages of this story the battle rages around Frank on every front. Will God equip him for the battle or allow him to be destroyed on the battlefield?
What do these images of war and turmoil have to do with the nativity? Well, the final battle is waged in Frank’s heart and mind during a Christmas Eve blizzard. The decision he makes that night determines life or death for two innocent people. As the story unfolds its final scenes, the reader is left with renewed hope in God’s sovereign design for each of our lives and His miraculous ability to bring good out of even the darkest circumstances.
One Holy Night was my introduction to J.M. Hochstetler’s work, and I have to tell you it was really terrific! She richly captures the turmoil surrounding the lives of those affected by the Viet Nam War, and the many emotional conflicts that raged on as a result of that war. I look forward to reading her other books, and I highly recommend this one to you!
—Kim Ford, Window to My World
It’s 1966. A young soldier leaves for Vietnam. His mother is fighting ovarian cancer. His father is still fighting the Japanese from World War II, steeped in bitterness at what happened to his brother. His sister and her pastor husband work hard to hold the family together, but this seems to be one family that doesn’t want to survive.
Reading J. M. Hochstetler’s One Holy Night is like watching a Hallmark Hall of Fame television production. Yes, it’s somewhat predictable. Yes, it tugs at the heart strings and brings tears to the eyes. Yes, there are some things you want to know more about but only get a glimpse of. And yes, things seem to come together almost too fast at the end.
But this is a novel about family, and we can see much of ourselves and our own families in this story of the McRaes and the Christensens of suburban Minneapolis. The struggles with past hurts; the hope we all have, often in the face of hopelessness; a family dealing with unimaginable loss; the wonder and tenderness of a young man and woman discovering love with each other—Hochstetler tells it all.
"Julie is trying to keep things together. Her mother Maggie is struggling with cancer. Her brother Mike is headed to Vietnam. Her father Frank is angry at Asians for the tortured death of his brother in WWII and in being instrumental in Mike’s leaving. He is angry at the possibility of losing his wife, something he cannot even consider. But when Mike’s actions cause a rift in the family, will Frank come to terms with God, his loss, and his faith before he does something that destroys everything?
"A story about hurt, peace, and the forgiveness only God can provide. Have the tissues ready for this one. Faith element: high and well integrated."
—Carolyn R. Scheidies, Author’s Choice Reviews
"This is no ordinary Christmas story. But then neither was the first one . . . we made it that way. One Holy Night touched my heart and renewed my commitment to forgive as I’ve been forgiven.
"First, author J. M. Hochstetler’s One Holy Night takes readers into the heart of Frank McRae as he battles old bitterness, hatred, and prejudice as he walks a unique path to reconciliation and forgiveness. Frank has a lot to be upset about. He witnessed atrocities in the South Pacific during WWII that haunt him, the love of his life is dying, and his son is killed in battle in far away Vietnam . . . a political battleground as well as a war-zone.
"When a baby is found in the manger at church—a living baby instead of an imitation—this grieving grandfather is unprepared for a miracle, very much like that first long-ago Christmas. Frank saw the signs but chose to ignore them. He heard the call of God on his heart and fought them with the determination of a WWII vet. When a baby full of innocence and love brings a little bit of his son back to him, Frank’s life is changed forever. His journey to the manger is sorrow-filled and yet this man so hardened by hurt is led to faith immersed in forgiveness by a little child.
"One Holy Night is a beautiful Christmas parable. Full of the wonder and hope of Jesus."
—Joy DeKok , author of Rain Dance and Under His Wings
"It’s November 19, 1966 and Mike McRae is on his way to Vietnam. His father Frank gifts him an old hymnal that he himself carried as a young Marine in WWII. The spiritual meaning of the book takes Mike off guard a bit. He’s never thought of his dad as a spiritual guy. And, there is good reason for that.
"Horrible unforgettable memories of WWII atrocities by the Japanese have buried themselves deep into Frank McRae’s mind. He hates it that now his son fights in yet another Asian war half way across the world.
"Worse than that though is watching the love of his life Maggie fight a war against an evil nemesis - cancer. Frank is very bitter and questions a God who would allow such things to happen. In the meantime, Julie (Frank’s daughter) and her husband Dan do the best to minister in love and be Christ-like in the midst of their own private war.
"The McRaes are an ordinary American family struggling to survive spiritually, physically and emotionally. When Mike delivers news that has the power to blow the family apart, the reader may find themselves praying for the McRae family.
"I am a big fan of J.M. Hochstetler. Her American Patriot series was one of my favorites and I was sorry to see we wouldn’t get book number three. Until I found One Holy Night I didn’t know that book three of the Patriot series is indeed being released soon. What makes her writing so compelling is the combination of real life characters and riveting plots. Reading becomes a journey and an adventure.
"I really appreciate the readers’ discussion guide in the back. It takes my reading deeper and is a good aide for book clubs."
—Linda Mae Baldwin, The Road to Romance
"You know, I like this book. I like that the author has taken me into a story that includes Viet Nam, feelings of an old WWII vet, family issues and intermarriage. She adds the flavor of the time and the problems of family life in a very nice blend by mentioning songs like Moon River in the background while concentrating on the relationships in the story.
"How complicated it is for someone who has served in battle, lost so much, and has such distrust left over causing chains of prejudice. Mike’s dad, Frank, didn’t leave that battle on the field, no man who has been to war can, but continues to battle his way back home every day.
"I love that the author can take a historical snapshot and deal with things that we all still face everyday. War doesn’t go away, feelings don’t snap into a disciplined order, and family isn’t perfect. But J. M. Hochstetler portrays a gentle and good love through human emotion persevering to overcome the circumstances that mold us.
This is a very good Christmas tale for our country right now. One that helps us understand a little bit more of the need for forgiveness before it is too late. Touching."
"One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler is a powerful novel of anger and redemption. The McRae family is facing serious crises in 1966. Frank and Maggie are facing the deployment of their son Mike to Vietnam while Maggie is fighting ovarian cancer. The events of the next thirteen months will leave them all changed forever, including their daughter Julie and her husband Dan.
"Mike is uncertain about the war, as well as his faith, but enlisting seemed the right thing to do, especially to please his WWII vet father. Frank is harboring bitter feelings toward anyone of Asian decent after what he saw during his war years, and that soon spills into his relationship with his son when Mike falls in love with a Vietnamese girl.
"Hochstetler unflinchingly portrays the anger of bigotry and its effects through Frank. His words are difficult to read, but the author uses them to at first define and then eventually redeem the character. One Holy Night contains a miracle that can change even the hardest of hearts. I was impressed at how Hochstetler let her characters talk about their faith to unbelievers without proselytizing. It's a perfect novel for Christmas with a story full of hope and love."
—Christy Lockstein, Christy’s Book Blog
"ONE HOLY NIGHT is a book filled with religious overtones, but it is also a novel filled with unforgettable characters. Author J. M. Hochstetler has crafted a story that will drive us to tears but also lift our spirits at the same time. It is a 'family' story that all readers can enjoy and one to which they can relate in some way.
"The McRae family is a family in crisis. Maggie McRae is suffering from ovarian cancer and is undergoing strong treatments for the disease. Her husband Frank is overly protective of her and totally dependent on her at the same time. Their daughter Julie is a nurse and lives close by which is a blessing.
"Julie is married to Dan, a preacher, and all the McRae’s attend his church. Maggie, Julie, and Julie’s daughter Amy are all faithful in their attendance. Maggie’s husband and their son Mike are more sporadic. Now their son Mike is leaving for a tour in Vietnam. The time is 1966 and the war is at its height. Frank and Maggie support their son and they support the military.
While Mike is in Vietnam he meets and falls in love with a Vietnamese woman. Frank is horrified. He served in World War II and sees all Asian people as the enemy. Maggie supports her son’s choice and tries to work on a reconciliation between Frank and Mike. Meanwhile her disease takes a turn for the worse.
Julie is the focal character in the book. She is the one who nurses her mother; she is the one who counsels her father; and she is the one who strengthens the family ties with her brother. The other characters are important but it is Julie who is the most important. She is the glue that holds the plot together.
"Hochstetler takes us on a journey with these characters as they move through times of joy and times of sadness. Each person described in the story comes alive and takes his/her place in the order of things. The author even brings in side characters to flesh out the story and she does it with inventiveness and skill.
"If you do not enjoy or appreciate a story of faith then this is not the book for you. But for those who do like this type of religious material as the backdrop for a good story, this is an excellent choice."
Jackie Cooper, author of The Sunrise Remembers
This is an awesome book of love and reconciliation . . . a powerful story about racism and overcoming the consuming hatred of it. . . . This then parallels the Christmas story of the miracle of Jesus being born. Like then, people had to overcome their hatred and predujices against others and Jesus taught them the way to live and how to be saved and forgiven and live with God. God also brings a miracle to this family so in need of forgiveness, love and reconciliation. It is set in the era of Vietnam, but it could easily happen today, anywhere there is racism. We all need to learn to stop the hate and live how God wants us to live.
—Michelle Kralicek, Michelle’s Amazing Book and Movie Reviews
One Holy Night is a Christmas story that can be read at any time of the year. When Mike McRae writes to his family that he has married a Vietnamese girl, his father, Frank, disowns his son allowing bitterness and unforgiveness to destroy any attempts of reconciliation. Mike’s sister, Julie, is left with the painful task of dealing with her father’s inability to deal with past hatreds towards a race responsible for the death of his brother during World War II. Her mother’s struggles to survive cancer stretches her own faith to the breaking point.
God once more uses a baby at Christmas time to bring healing and restoration to a family. Those who have lost loved ones in times of war and disease will receive comfort from a story written with sensitivity and warmth.
—Diana L. Dilcher
“One Holy Night is a powerful, thought provoking tale of the battles many of us are faced with at some point in our lives—war, health, ingrained prejudices, overcoming heartache and loss, and, inevitably, the significance of having a Christian faith. I was deeply moved by the parallel J. M. Hochstetler created between the ongoing battle with Maggie’s cancer and the battles her son fought in Viet Nam.
"I was also touched by Hochstetler’s character Terry, and how she used him to illustrate to her readers that our soldiers are never the same once they’ve gone off to war. But God heals all wounds, even if a scar remains. The same is true for Frank who has gone through so much in his life. It was especially satisfying in the end to witness God’s miraculous transformation of Frank and to see Romans 8:28 fulfilled to the highest degree! Well done, Ms. Hochstetler!”
—Jennifer Stephens, author of The Heart’s Journey Home
The debut release from Sheaf House, Hochstetler does not disappoint with this heartrending tale of loss and new life. Frank McRae has lived for decades with a deep-seated hatred and prejudice against Asians due to the things he witnessed -as well as the loss of his brother - while fighting in WWII. He had no interest in God despite his wife’s prayers for countless years. But the loss of his wife and son, and the discovery of his half Asian grandson, will shake his world, and bring him from complete hatred and despair to a new life and hope in Christ. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Ms. Hochstetler!
This touching book is sure to bring tears to your eyes while you are reading. I enjoyed the look into a family's life during the Vietnam War and the resulting repercussions of war on the entire family. It was a wonderful story that had me crying and rooting for the characters.
—Janis, The Nearsighted Bookworm Blog
“One Holy Night is a story of true forgiveness, but not easy forgiveness. Frank McRae’s losses span over 20 years and go so deep that he will probably never change and he doesn’t want to change. His family won’t give up hope though, and they continue to pray for this devoted husband and family man. What they need is a miracle, a true miracle of the heart. Set in the Vietnam War era, One Holy Night takes you back to the real story, not the protests or the politics, but the story of a family with a son and brother on tour of duty in Nam. J.M. Hochstetler weaves a captivating and often heart-wrenching story that is well worth the read.”
“One Holy Night offers a poignant look into the lives of one family touched by war and loss. The McRae’s are a real- to-life family, struggling to cope with the range of emotions and experiences that humans encounter. While Maggie (mother) battles cancer, Mike (son) fights for his life in Vietnam. While Dan and Julie (daughter) teach their parishioners and community to love through their ministry and example, Frank (father) struggles with deep-seated bitterness and hate that threatens to tear them all apart. Each member of the family has his or her personal demons to face, while working to relate to the family as a whole. The plotlines combine to create a touching story with characters that you will feel like you know. Be prepared with tissues. You will need them as you follow their stories through to the end.”
—Lisa Tuttle, author
“You might think this is a Christmas story. And it is. Yet, it’s more than that. It is a poignant portrayal of one family during the pathos that was Viet Nam, when, in 1966, a son goes off to war.
“Mike McCrae writes from Viet Nam that he has met, fallen in love with—and married—a young Vietnamese girl. All the pent-up hatred for all people Asian erupt in Mike’s father, Frank, who’s memories of his WWII experience in the South Pacific and the unspeakable treatment meted out, have turned him into a bitter, brittle shell of a man. Frank disowns his son. It doesn’t help that Frank’s wife, Maggie, is fighting a war of her own—against cancer. Frank tries to bargain with a God he’s not sure he even believes in for Maggie’s life. And Mike’s sister, Julie, tries desperately to hold the family together.
“This is a gripping and poignant story about a family torn apart by the inner and outward conflict of war, bitterness, pain and anger, and loss. What ultimately happens on a bitter winter night during a horrible blizzard is so touchingly depicted you’ll not soon forget it.
“An excellent read no matter what time of the year, One Holy Night is a strong, moving story about forgiveness, hope and healing, and redemption. Highly recommended.”
—Peggy Blann Phifer, reviewer and author
“One Holy Night made me laugh and cry and THINK! A book that can manage to do all three is worth reading-more than once. It so effectively illustrated the necessity of forgiveness, it would be impossible not to examine your own heart when the book is finished. It’s a book, I’ll pick up and read many times, I’m sure.”
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