Wednesday, December 17, 2008

John Grisham: Skipping Christmas

I read Skipping Christmas by John Grisham many years ago. Probably in 2001 when it first came out. I remembered the basic story line, especially after being reminded by watching previews for Christmas with the Kranks. The movie previews turned me off on the prospect of a re-read. Plus I remembered that there were aspects of the book I did not like. But this year I thought, “It’s Christmas! Why not?”

Luther and Nora Krank’s daughter, Blair, goes to Peru with the Peace Corps a month before Christmas. Luther is a tax accountant, a notoriously unsentimental profession. He calculates that last year they spent $6,100 on Christmas for too much to eat, too much to drink, and gifts no one wanted. They also are under pressure and fight over decorating, last minute shopping, and all the other stress factor of Christmas. With Blair gone, why go through it all? For half the price and none of the hassle they can go on a 10-day Caribbean cruise. So why not go someplace warm? Why not skip Christmas?

Luther convinces Nora, and the book is on. But skipping Christmas is not so easy in the Krank’s town. Their neighborhood is proud of its success in Christmas decorating contests. Luther’s undecorated home sticks out badly. Police and Firemen don’t like hearing about skipping the whole things while they are selling calendars and fruitcakes to help the needy. Luther’s co-workers are alternately envious and upset about his plan to skip the office parties and other trappings of the season. But Nora’s friends are just horrified.

The first half of the book is a pretty harsh look at the commercialization and petty bickering of the modern American Christmas. And I felt pretty glad not to live in Luther’s neighborhood. There were sparks of humor, although some was dark humor. Mainly, I did not like the bickering between Nora and Luther.

But around the middle of the book, Luther’s plans go awry. And the humor and Christmas spirit picks up. Yesterday, I found myself chucking while reading in line at the Post Office. This morning I caught myself laughing out loud while reading alone in the house.

Skipping Christmas is not a typical Grisham novel – it’s a Christmas book. But Grisham is a good writer, so it’s a good Christmas book. It’s a short, easy read in the busy season. By the end, it puts you in a good mood. And it was well worth my time on the re-read.

No comments: