It may just be early fall, but Jean Stone drops us headlong into a winter nor’easter in her book, “A Vineyard Christmas.” She writes so vividly that you expect to see snow outside your window. Stone likewise uses the exact specifics of the Island so thoroughly it makes the story feel as though we are sharing the main character Annie’s experience as she navigates both the Island and the unfolding story. Not surprisingly, Stone herself lives on the Island, and we can feel her love for it throughout.
Stone interweaves underlying themes of abandonment, trust, and secrecy to create a mystery, which unwinds slowly taking us on a journey where we too only understand more as the main character does herself.
The Times asked Stone what the book holds for the reader.
How would you describe “A Vineyard Christmas” in a few sentences?
When a bestselling author, Annie, moves to the Vineyard to try to start her life over, she quickly finds that the reality of off-season is far different from the easy tranquility she’d expected, and that her survival depends on how fast she can learn to navigate the challenges of living on Chappy, a sudden nor’easter, and a baby showing up on her doorstep.
What inspired you to set the story at Christmastime, and have Annie live on Chappaquiddick?
When my longtime editor called and asked if I wanted to write a new Vineyard series, I jumped at the chance. The Christmas and the baby-on-the-doorstep ideas were hers, but she said, “Write it however you want.” Years ago, a highlight of the first winter I spent here was Christmas in Edgartown. I think I went to nearly every event; there was a little snow and, well, it was magical. It seemed like a good place to open the book. Because every good story requires strong conflict, I decided that the weather — specifically a nor’easter — could play a role. Then, in order to develop a mystery of where-did-the-baby-come-from and why, I wanted to add an even greater chance for difficulties with communications; hence, Chappaquiddick.
Why did you choose to use adoption as one of your major themes?
Well, I go way back with that. My first book, “Sins of Innocence,” was centered on unwed mothers in the 1960s; one of my early Vineyard books, “Tides of the Heart,” was a sequel to that. Who doesn’t love a good, heartstrings-tugging story about abandoned babies?
Your characters are very vivid. Why did you choose to make Annie’s good friend, Winnie, Wampanoag?
My ancestors arrived here in the early 17th century. I’ve always had great respect for Native Americans — and a bit of guilt for the ways in which my forefathers moved in on their land. I like to incorporate a little Wampanoag culture into my stories so my readers can learn about some of their history and traditions. It feels like the least I can do.
What do you want readers to walk away with after reading your novel?
That the Vineyard is more than a place for great summer fun: that at its core lies an amazing community of caring, supportive people who work very hard to make this the great place it is, every day, every season of the year.
“A Vineyard Christmas” by Jean Stone. Kensington Books, 331 pages. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven for $15.95, and online. Stone has a book talk and signing Saturday, Oct. 6, 3 pm, at the Edgartown library. Signing on the porch from noon to 2 pm on Sunday, Oct. 7, at Edgartown Books.