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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, December 23, 2001

Books Recapture True Meaning of Season

A good Christmas book should remind us of the true meaning of the holiday and should re-ignite our Christmas spirit. It should call to mind the fact that Christmas is really about giving and not about shopping or trying to recapture the memories of our childhood.

Wouldn't the holy season be less hectic if children, who genuinely believe in the magic of Christmas, were the only ones receiving presents? Adults, instead of clogging up the malls, could focus on giving love and not gifts. Instead of attempting to relive the past, they could focus on improving the present.

Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton (Viking, 1999).

In a few short years, Lori Willis has evolved from a temporary worker in the United States to a wealthy heiress married to an affluent attorney and living in a cozy cottage in a small village in England.

Lori's father, who died when she was 3 months old, had loved Christmas and celebrated it lavishly. After receiving her new inheritance, marrying and giving birth to twin sons, she is finally prepared to observe the holiday in a style worthy of her father.

Lori spends a fortune on a new winter wardrobe and antique ornaments and plans an elaborate party for her fellow villagers, but the discovery of the supine body of a vagrant in the snow outside her window changes everything. Lori becomes obsessed with finding out this man's identity and, in the process, everyone's repugnance for his destitution is transformed into sympathy and kindness.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (Doubleday, 2001).

This popular author has penned an amusing Christmas story about the absurdity of our materialistic way of celebrating Christmas and the near impossibility of trying to avoid the entire mess.

Grisham will bring a wry smile to your face and may even encourage you to dream about escaping the turmoil of Christmas, but in the end he is telling us that we should stick it out because good will come out of it if our hearts are in the right place.

Corpus Christmas by Margaret Maron (Warner, 2001).

Originally published in 1989, Maron's Christmas mystery is not particularly heartwarming, but is an incisive portrait of the New York art world and a rollicking good mystery, as well.

The mystery's setting is the Erich Breul House, which became an art museum after the death of its owner in 1918. Sigrid Harald, a NYPD detective, becomes embroiled in a murder that occurs at the Breul House on the occasion of a dinner in honor of a Picasso-like painter, who happens to be her boyfriend. The suspects are many, and the author keeps you guessing to the end. #9;

Christmas in Plains by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

It is always profitable to spend a few hours with this gentleman from Georgia, who associates Christmas with family and the Georgia city of Plains.

President Carter and Plains are inseparable. He may have even been secretly relieved to return to his hometown after one term in Washington, though he felt bad for Rosalyn, who took his lopsided defeat harder than he did. After the death of his father earlier in his life, he quit the Navy at the height of a promising career to return to Plains.

Carter's childhood was immersed in the admiration of his father and the culture of his black neighbors. Surprisingly, the president's family was not overly religious, and his hardworking father applied all his attention each Christmas to the making of the perfect whiskey-spiked eggnog (and moonshine was not unknown in their household).

A mature man could do worse than take to Carter as a role model. He recounts how he and Rosalyn lost interest in personal presents for Christmas after the arrival of their children, but even before their births, he and Rosalyn had maintained the family tradition of reading to one another the biblical rendition of the birth of Christ. God has become as central to Carter's life as have family and Plains.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.