Onyx reviews: Skipping
Christmas by John Grisham
Have you ever wanted to give Christmas a miss for one year? Escape the
over-commercialized hustle and bustle and take a cruise in the Caribbean?
That's the decision Luther and Nora Krank make when their teenage daughter Blair
joins the Peace Corps, leaving them alone during the holidays for the first
time. By Thanksgiving Luther is already fed up with the insanity surrounding the
season. His name may sound like "crank" but the emotions are pure
By his calculations, the Kranks spent $6100 on Christmas the previous year, and
what do they have to show for it? Nothing. Gifts no one uses any more. Clothing
bought for parties and not worn since. Hundreds of dollars on Christmas cards
alone! Decorations. Parties. Food.
And nothing to show for it.
Luther arrives home from work one day armed with brochures for a ten-day cruise.
By leaving on Christmas Day they can increase their savings. For less than half
the cost of last year's Christmas, he and his wife can have fun in the sun,
snorkel on the reefs and rest their weary bones. Blair will be back for the
holidays next year - they can resume their annual traditions then. He gradually
wins Nora over to the idea.
Seems simple enough.
For the next several weeks, Luther and Nora meet with disbelief, astonishment
and scorn from friends, acquaintances and total strangers. The usual stream of
people show up at the door looking to sell the Kranks a Christmas tree, fruit
cakes, and calendars. Merchants call to find out why they haven't yet placed
their greeting card order. Friends wonder why they haven't gotten invitations to
the Krank's traditional Christmas Eve party.
Especially outraged are the neighbors who discover the Kranks aren't going to
decorate the house this year. The residents of Hemlock Street have won contests
for their joint efforts in the past. Frosty the Snowman won't adorn their
rooftop this year? How selfish of them to jeopardize the street's reputation!
The neighbors use guerrilla tactics. Carolers assault the Krank's house. Jingle Bells blares through their windows every evening.
Though temptation comes in many forms, the Kranks are resolved. Luther buys a
tanning package so they won't have to worry about the sun on their cruise. He
deliberately misses his office parties. Instead of buying a tree from the Boy
Scouts, he promises to support their field trips the next summer. "We're
skipping Christmas this year," he says over and over again. No one has ever
heard of such a thing.
Skipping Christmas is a departure for John Grisham, who is on a
yearlong hiatus from lawyer novels. He reveals a whimsical side that has only
peeked out in the past. This slight novel, fewer than two hundred small pages,
is a fable for modern times, an acerbic look at how out-of-control Christmas has
become. The book is lyrical, but also hilarious, especially following a December
24th phone call that throws the Kranks' plans into a tizzy. Picture Ray Bradbury
crossed with humorist Dave Barry.
The Kranks best-laid plans get turned upside down and the final third of the
book is a rollicking return to reality. For all its superficial disdain for the
festive season, the book delves briefly but poignantly into the things that are
really important in life and ends with a heart-warming scene of goodwill and
peace toward mankind.
Just the kind of fable we need in these trying times.
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