A few weeks ago, I saw an announcement on Rainbow Rowell’s Instagram that she was releasing a holiday short story this year and I rejoiced. I like Rowell’s short form work as much as I like her novel length ones. I’ve read Kindred Spirits, her 2016 take on fandom and waiting in line for Star Wars. Rowell also has holiday themed ones: Almost Midnight, 2017’s collection that includes both Kindred Spirits and Midnights. Midnights tracks a pair across several years’ worth of New Year’s Eves and 2019’s Pumpkinheads which is a delightful graphic novel that celebrates all things Halloween.
If the Fates Allow brings Reagan from Fangirl forward in time to now, including all the COVID-19 reality we’ve been living through the past nearly two years, and gives us a peek into her in her early 30s (I think, the math is throwing me a bit). Reagan is still just as kick-ass as she was when we first met her: she’s quippy and quick, she’s a bit of a misanthrope but she cares about the people who matter to her. In 40 pages we learn that social distancing came easily to Reagan (girl, I feel you). Maybe a little too easily (yep). But it’s Christmas 2020 and Reagan doesn’t want her grandpa to be alone for his first Christmas as a widower, and like everyone else (who is properly isolating) he’s already spent too much time on his own. After quarantining for two weeks Reagan leaves Lincoln and heads back to her hometown to spend the holiday with him. What Reagan wasn’t expecting or planning for was to run into the boy next door. Mason’s family has lived next to her grandpa for years, and like Reagan he is all grown up now, not that Reagan can remember him from their shared years in high school. The person in front of her now is considerate and funny, and just the sort to put himself in a bit of danger to help someone who needs it.
In their short time together Mason’s warmth defrosts Reagan a bit. Not that he’s trying to, one of the things I liked best about Mason was that he wasn’t put out by how prickly Reagan is, in fact, he appears to like it (and perhaps always has). This is Rowell, she’s able to craft quality characters quickly and she deftly handles how COVID effected interacting with others, both those we know well and those we’re meeting again. I’m going with four stars for this because it wraps up a bit too quickly, and I didn’t feel like the first and second halves were balanced, but I was glad to have spent the time back in this fictional neck of the woods and I’m sure I’ll probably read it again before the end of the year.
(There’s also another check-in on Levi and Cath, like in Landline, and it made me smile to read it.)