Most Christmas novellas are as gentle as snow falling in a well-contained snow globe: everything is muted and soft around the edges. But this story by Jenkins (Left Behind), a novelization of the December DVD release Midnight Clear starring Stephen Baldwin, takes on some darker themes than the usual holiday fare: one character is a realistically-portrayed alcoholic, another a young mother whose husband is brain damaged after a devastating car accident, and another an old woman carefully cleaning her house on Christmas Eve to prepare for her planned holiday suicide. The other two characters are a depressed gas station owner and a disillusioned youth pastor, both of whom are wondering why life is so stultifying and hard. Jenkins is not a lyrical writer, and many of the story's transitions are abrupt and more suitable for a screenplay than a novel. But these are surprisingly genuine characters, and the novel doesn't have a contrived ending. Though the characters discover the hope of Christmas in the ordinary kindnesses they render each other, their difficult circumstances don't change overnight. The simple story, refreshingly devoid of treacle, becomes all the more hopeful because of the characters' earlier despair.