At our book club’s December meeting, we discussed Keeping Christmas, by Dan Walsh. Walsh, a well-published former minister, has some intriguing titles to his credit, so I was disappointed in this one. He has spun the tale of Judith Winters, a woman who learns that, for the first time, not only will her three grown and married children not be coming home for Thanksgiving, they also cannot make the long trip home for Christmas. There will be no grandchildren in her home this Christmas. To say she goes into a tailspin is an understatement. She can’t eat Thanksgiving dinner, and can’t bring herself to put up Christmas decorations.
This is a woman who has lived her life for her children and, when they leave the nest, and have children of their own, she believes she has nothing. The story is set in Mt. Dora, Florida, and describes some of the holiday events in that lovely town such as the parade of boats covered in Christmas lights, and the evening of snow, compliments of a snow machine that locals, especially children, love. None of these events cheer Judith, and nothing her husband, Stan, or best friend, Betty, can say or do helps.
After getting through about 160 pages of pathetic angst, there is finally a solution to Judith’s pity party. Stan makes a sacrifice that finally gives her a reason to choose to be happy rather than depressed. His act of love reminds me of The Gift of the Magi, but to describe it would spoil the story for anyone who decides to read the book. One good “tidbit of wisdom” that stood out to me was the line spoken by Stan, “You don’t put your hobbies and toys ahead of your family’s needs.” Perhaps the lesson of Walsh’s book is that we can’t live our lives through others; true happiness must come from within.
This is a short, light, easy read. It can be read in one or two days, depending on how much time you have to do nothing but read. It could have had much more substance and, so, to this reader, it seemed a bit shallow with 150+ pages of Judith’s self-pity. Walsh’s books have received critical acclaim by major publications, so some of his other books must be better than this one.
Only one of the members present at our meeting really liked the book. Everyone else said the main character should “get a life”. I found myself putting the book down frequently, being frustrated with Judith. Most of the book club members agreed that Judith was a whiner who was upset that she couldn’t get her way. We also noticed that the book came close to being an advertisement for Bass Pro Shop, with that big box chain store receiving multiple mentions. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the store had paid for promotion as Stan’s favorite store.
What Made this Book Reviewer Grumpy?
Besides the fact that it needed a stronger plot and more substance, there were far too many sentences that ended with a preposition or began with a conjunction, and too many split infinitives. Unless an author is developing characters who are supposed to be uneducated, the characters should have better grammar, if for no other reason than to provide a good example for people who genuinely don’t know better.