Friday, December 15, 2006

Who Wants a Little Schmaltz for Christmas?

Claire and I love Christmas.

And we love books.

So, it's a foregone conclusion that we have a very special feeling for quality Christmas...books.

And, like our general reading, we find that it is much more worthwhile to re-read the classics than it is to be bothered, offended and frustrated by the sorry stuff that has been produced in recent decades. But, every once in awhile, we find on a library shelf or a bookstore table a title that ends up going home with us. And, among those few, there occasionally emerges one that we enjoy enough to recommend to others.

One such surprise find for us came a couple of years ago in Fannie Flagg's A Redbird Christmas. Both Claire and I found it warm-hearted, funny and charmingly written. I do not claim to know anything about other works by Flagg, but this particular book I openly suggest to others who are looking for a fairly quick, uncomplicated and happy book. Realistic but lovable characters. Enough plot tension to keep you turning pages. And a homespun kind of perspective that makes you feel like you've gone home for Christmas. Really nice.

I should tell you, however, that not all my friends feel this way about the novel. Indeed, there were two or three from last night's Notting Hill Napoleon discussion that strongly disliked it. (It was our December selection.) There was, for instance, one who thought it not direct enough in its Christmas message. True enough. Though it is not marked by the profane and pessimistic like so many modern novels (it could easily rate a PG rating if such things were done with books), it is not a Christian novel. If you looking only for that in your Christmas reading, do indeed look elsewhere.

A couple more disliked the book for another reason. They found it too...well, too schmaltzy.

But, if you are the kind that actually likes a little schmaltz at know, the kind that still is moved by the sentiment of It's A Wonderful Life or Come to the Stable or Going My Way...the kind that gets pensive and even misty-eyed by the contrived coincidences in Miracle on 34th Street or The Gift of the Magi or A Christmas Carol...the kind that still reaches out to hold hands with your spouse at the conclusion of Christmas in Connecticut or Holiday Inn or White Christmas -- then you go right ahead and find a copy of A Redbird Christmas.

I'm quite sure you'll find the touching plight of Oswald, Patsy and Jack as captivating as Claire and I did. And you'll delight even more in the happy ending.