Cover image for The last Noel
The last Noel
Malone, Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks, [2002]

Physical Description:
292 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Holiday

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Divided into 12 unevenly spaced vignettes--each set during the Christmas season--the plot traces the star-crossed friendship of Noni Tilden, daughter of her town's richest family, and Kaye King, grandson of Noni's mother's maid, across a span of four decades.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The prolific Malone, most recently the author of a stellar short story collection (Red Clay, Blue Cadillac [BKL F 1 02]), now turns in a warm, engaging love story. Structured around 12 different days of Christmas spanning the years 1963^-2003, the novel follows the developing relationship between wealthy white Noelle "Noni" Tilden and John "Kaye" King, who is the black grandson of the Tilden family maid. They first meet at the age of seven, when Kaye tumbles through Noni's bedroom window, full of the high spirits and braggadocio that would both amuse and infuriate her for decades. As the two struggle with family problems and forge careers, all of their friends wait for them to discover what is readily apparent to everyone else--they are deeply in love. Malone walks a fine line here between the mawkish and the moving. The plotline can sometimes feel soap opera^-like, with its detours into infidelity and illness, but Malone is such a fine writer that at every turn he provides insightful glimpses into an exceptionally appealing cast of characters. Clearly positioned, both in terms of its structure and marketing campaign, to appeal to Christmas book buyers, this could be Malone's biggest seller yet. --Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Scarcely a month after J.F.K.'s assassination, two seven-year-old children-a spoiled, white North Carolina girl born on Christmas Eve and a poor, street-smart Philadelphia black boy born hours later on Christmas Day-take a sleigh ride early Christmas morning and begin a lifelong friendship. After an intriguing opening, this earnest fable about social change from veteran novelist Divided into 12 unevenly spaced vignettes-each set during the Christmas season-the plot traces the star-crossed friendship of Noni Tilden, daughter of her town's richest family, and Kaye King, grandson of Noni's mother's maid, across a span of four decades. The familiar characters verge on stereotypes: Noni's father, Bud, is a hard-drinking former basketball jock; her mother a snobby socialite; her brother, Wade, a bigoted, scheming land developer. Aunt Ma, Kaye's grandmother, is a kind but tough woman who "knows to keep her place in a white man's world." Malone (First Lady) also has a corny way of introducing bits of race-related history and period details into the narrative ("Judy's doing it. It's called aerobics," says one cocktail party guest to another). The story does pick up some momentum about two-thirds of the way through, and readers who stay the course will be rewarded with a sentimental, fitfully affecting drama of sibling feuds and divorces, loss and reconciliation. (Nov.) Forecast: Sourcebooks Landmark is counting on Malone's crowd-pleasing abilities to make this a big Christmas book-a 100,000 first printing is planned. The price is definitely right, and a strong marketing campaign and seven-city author tour should help, though the book will face stiff competition from other Christmas releases and classics. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Malone moves from short stories (Red Clay, Blue Cadillac) and police procedurals (First Lady) to create a novel of enduring friendship. Daughter to the wealthy Tildens of Moors, NC, Noni is born on Christmas Eve 1956. Hours later, on Christmas Day, Kaye arrives as a new grandson to the King family, longtime black servants to the white Tildens. Noni and Kaye meet on Christmas Day in 1963 as seven-year-olds and forge a bond that survives every effort to separate them. The novel is arranged in 12 chapters, covering Christmases over 40 years. Through the prism of Kaye and Noni and their extended families and friends, the author sheds light on American culture and especially its range of relationships. Though expertly imagined, this book will mostly appeal to the lucrative women's market, especially with its tearjerker ending. And while definitely Southern in setting and characters, it doesn't have the authenticity of recent works from other North Carolinians, such as Pamela Duncan's Moon Women and Robert Morgan's This Rock. For public libraries with ample fiction budgets or where Malone has a following.-Rebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.