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Skipping Christmas by John Grisham




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It’s a Wonderful Life

If Jimmy Stewart were alive, he’d recognize Bedford Falls in John Grisham’s new novel, Skipping Christmas. Lovers of good legal fiction will enjoy that Grisham has continued his hiatus from writing his version of that genre. Instead, Grisham delivers a sentimental 180 pages of life at the end of year holidays in a community that takes its holiday traditions seriously. After Luther and Nora Krank (great names, eh) decide to skip Christmas celebrations and decorating and take a cruise instead, everything begins to go wrong for them. Since their only child left home for the Peace Corps in Peru, they decided to do something different for a change. In Grisham’s world, different is wrong. Everybody on the block needs to put an illuminated Frosty the Snowman on the roof, using the specially designed chimney straps a helpful neighbor created. Even the Pakastani Muslim family on the block conformed, for the short while they lived in this community.

The Kranks were scheduled to depart for their cruise on Christmas day, so they didn’t even bother to put up a Christmas tree. When their daughter called on Christmas Eve to announce that she and her recently met fiancé, a Peruvian doctor, would be coming to the Krank house for Christmas. Grisham has the whole community pitch in to restore the Krank household to normal Christmas magic. Here’s an excerpt:

“Luther and Nora waited nervously in their bedroom for a private reunion with their daughter, and for a quiet introduction to Enrique.
 ‘What if we don’t like him?’ Luther mumbled, sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbing his ankles. The party was growing rowdy down the hall.
 ‘Hush, Luther. We raised a smart girl.’ Nora was applying a last-minute layer of powder to her cheeks.
 ‘But they just met.’
 ‘Love at first sight.’
 ‘Maybe you’re right. It took me three years to see your potential.’
The door opened and Blair rushed in. Nora and Luther both glanced at her firsst, then quickly looked beyond to see how dark Enrique was.
He wasn’t dark at all! At least two shades lighter than Luther himself.!”

Gag me. If pushing this book out quickly, after 9/11 and before Christmas, was meant to propagandize the benefits of close neighbors and communities, in many ways, that message fails. The statement this book makes is that diversity fails, and homogeneity wins. Lots of readers will enjoy the romance and sentimentality in this book. If Grisham intended this book to be a satire on life in suburbia, he fails on that count as well. Few of his readers will catch on that it’s satire. I suggest that unless you really like Grisham or Christmas, skip Skipping Christmas.

Steve Hopkins, December 5, 2001


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