Friday, December 25, 2009

Skipping Christmas

Skipping Christmas
© 2001 John Grisham
227 pages

One of my own personal Christmas traditions is to read John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. It's a tradition I've maintained every year since owning the book, although part of the tradition is not reading all of it. Skipping Christmas was one of the first books Grisham wrote outside of the legal thriller genre, and makes for a light, fun, seasonal read.

Skipping Christmas is the story of Luther Krank, who -- after a particularly grating trip downtown to buy pistachios and an expensive brand of white chocolate for one of his wife's many holiday projects -- wonders just  how much Christmas costs him. After calculating his total expenditures -- the tree, gifts, cards, massive party -- and arriving at the respectable sum of $6100, he has a mad idea: why not skip Christmas? His daughter Blair just started a two-year hitch with the Peace Corps, so why not take himself and the wife on a ten-day Caribbean cruise for half the price of Christmas -- blowing off all of the trappings of the season? Why not say "no" to buying meaningless and often useless gifts, to parties with lechers and gossips, to the turmoil of shopping for supplies downtown?

And so, while his neighbors spend thousands of dollars on turkeys and cashmere sweaters, the Kranks work on their tans and diet to make their bodies swimsuit fit. While their neighbors invest hours of work in decorating their homes, the Kranks dance around in their living room to reggae music, knowing that on Christmas day they will be headed for warm sunshine and tropic islands -- and when they return, utterly relaxed, they will have no bills to pay, no decorations to take down, and can enjoy knowing that this year, they said "no" to being overwhelmed by the holidays: they did it their way.

The reason I typically stop reading the book 5/6s of the way through is because on Christmas Eve, Luther's beautiful plan goes awry and he must begin biting bullets. I suppose it's a story about the futility of trying to resist such entrenched traditions, but so help me if I don't root for Luther every single time. As I said, it's a fun little read -- worth reading in the next couple of weeks while Christmas songs still echo, or next year when the frenzy begins again.

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