75. Skipping Christmas
by John Grisham
second book for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge
From my book notes in April 2002:
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham 2001 A-And approaching ten years later, I would say much the same thing. The gist of the tale, as noted above, is that Blair Krank, the twenty-three year old only child of Nora and Luther heads off for a year of Peace Corps work in Peru. For the first time in all those years the family will not be together for Christmas. Luther comes up with the idea of going on a cruise to a warm island, and letting go their usual Christmas activities.
A couple's daughter flies to Peru the day after Thanksgiving to start a year of Peace Corps work. Her father decides that since she will not be home for Christmas, they should just skip the holiday, and use the money saved to go on a cruise. The year before they had spent $6100(!) on Christmas with nothing really to show for it. The wife agrees, though is a bit reluctant at the idea. The seemingly simple idea is much harder than they think it will be to carry out. I thought this would be just a light, humorous book, but it was more than that, and I really liked it. It had a lot to say about suburban life, family, friends, and life in general. A few funny moments, but on the whole, it was quite serious and thought provoking.
From such a simple, honest, understandable alternative comes surprising mayhem. There are several instances of things I would call ridiculous. Here are just two examples:
1.Not giving to benevolent societies who come asking each year but saying they'll give to a summer fundraiser. Silly. They could certainly have still given, without disrupting their present Christmas plan.
2.The Kranks don't put up the Frosty on their roof which is a neighborhood tradition. So what appears on their lawn but a sign which says, 'Free Frosty' with a picture of the snowman trapped in the cellar with the Christmas decorations.
I could have done without those sorts of things, and would have been happier if the book had concentrated on the real situation. The daughter is away. The parents are sad. They spent money last year that was probably unnecessary. They decide to go on a cruise instead. Not a big deal. It isn't 'cranky' to do any of those things, so to me, even their last name is a silly play on words. On this second reading, I was interested in how I saw the negatives more. I still think Grisham had a good idea, but couldn't decide whether it was serious or slapstick.
And then, quite suddenly an event occurs - a pleasant one - which turns the Krank Christmas plans upside down. You probably all know the story but in case there are one or two readers of my letters who haven't read it, I won't give away the excitement toward the end of the book. Suffice it to say that after my irritations, I felt all warm and fuzzy again. Am I glad I read it again? Yes. Will I read it a third time? No. Would I recommend it? Yes, with some reservations. If you don't mind what they call in the movies, 'dramedies' then you might not mind the things that annoyed me. If you are fond of the movie Christmas Vacation, then you probably will appreciate the rather goofball humor. And if you like a good Christmas story with a happy ending, you will likely enjoy this, taking into account the hesitations I have noted. There really is a warm, cozy, loveable Christmas story inside the pages of the book, but this reader wishes it had been just that.
This is my second adult book for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.