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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Skipping Christmas: A Novel

At one of my favorite used bookstores, I picked up John Grisham's Skipping Christmas to read over the holiday break. I haven't yet seen "Christmas with the Kranks," the movie based off of it, so I thought it would be a fun pre-Christmas read this year.

Luther and Nora Krank said goodbye to their daughter right after Thanksgiving, off to the Peace Corps for two years. Luther, who hates the pageantry of Christmas (not to mention the $6,100 price tag in 2000 dollars), and he proposes to Nora that this year they skip Christmas and take a cruise. Nora reluctantly agrees. They don't buy the calendars, the fruitcakes, or the tree. They skip parties, cards, and celebrations of all kind. When they finally reach Christmas Eve and are excited to take off on their tropical adventure, their daughter calls with a bombshell.

I think it's fair to say that this book didn't win any awards, but it was exactly what I needed for when I read it. Coming off of an interesting semester, most of which was lovely but had its challenges, I needed a book that required no intellectual investment and that I could read in a reasonable time frame. (For me, that means a day on and off.) This book fit that bill. I read it on Christmas Eve Eve and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

There were some things that drove me nuts about this book, particularly Luther's obsession with money, and I couldn't decide if it was overkill from a writing perspective or if if it got on my nerves because of my own delicate sensibilities. $6k is a ton of money and I was frankly horrified that this, in early 2000's dollars, was how much a Midwestern couple spent on Christmas. I did a quick calculation on the interwebs and saw that this is $8,647.59 in current dollars. I just said some curse words out loud and threw up a little bit in my mouth.

I actually said to my hubby that I was amused that this book came into my hands the same year that I find myself pushing back against Christmas, specifically the commercialism and materialistic culture it embodies. I'm finding myself hating how much stuff we have (so much so that I fondly call it "out shit," because I can't deal), and then shopping for family members for the sake of buying things really wore me down. It feels so wasteful, and I am reaching a point where I don't want to participate any longer. How funny that Skipping Christmas was my choice.

I loved the premise, that the Kranks were going to take off for a vacation together instead of all of the materialistic trappings that Christmas brings. It was hilarious that they forewent so many things, and I found it to be quite poignant that when Luther offered the same donations that he normally offered at Christmas another time later in the year, the donation seekers were miffed. Luther said on three different occasions, "Don't you do X to help others? Come back in the summer and I'll give you $100 for that." Each time the requester went away in a huff. How funny, that someone offers you a donation later, and you are upset. It rang true to me, and it fell in line with the issues I am dealing with this year.

Ultimately, at the end of the book, the Kranks see that those who love them for who they are will come through when it's needed, and that love takes many forms. It takes many people and their presence to save Christmas, and at the end of the day it's about the people, not the stuff. I think we would all be wise to take that in this year, next year, and the years to come. 

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