Skipping Christmas – John Grisham
“The gate was packed with weary travelers, most of them standing and huddled along the walls because the meager allotment of plastic chairs had long since been taken. Every plane that came and went held at least eighty passengers, yet the gate had seats for only a few dozen.”
If you had only one chance to skip Christmas, would you take it?
Skipping Christmas was John Grisham’s thirteenth novel overall, but only his second unrelated to crime. Known for law-related works such as The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Runaway Jury, this holiday-themed story came as quite the surprise. Despite this, it quickly became popular.
Published in 2001, it reached number one on The New York Times Best-Seller List barely one month later. It’s most famous for it’s popular movie adaption, Christmas with the Kranks.
The story follows Luther and Nora Krank as they try to avoid Christmas. Having sent off their daughter to Peru, they can’t find much to celebrate, and as a result, Luther suggests they take a break from it all. No Christmas tree or decorations, no Christmas dinner or office parties, not even Christmas cards or presents. Instead, they plan a ten-day Caribbean cruise and prepare to have the time of their lives. Or so they think. Between objecting neighbours, gossiping friends, and surprise visitors, it seems that skipping Christmas might just have to wait.
Skipping Christmas is a simple but heartfelt story about one couple’s struggle to escape it all.
- It’s relatable. Who hasn’t considered skipping Christmas at one point? Yes, the day itself is enjoyable with cosy fires and smiling kids and more turkey than you can safely eat in a week, but all of that doesn’t happen overnight (though many of us wish it would). Between the panic of what presents to buy, trying to organise the largest meal all year, and then realising you never sent that one distant relative a card, Christmas can easily get overwhelming. So wouldn’t it be nice to just slip away until its all over?
- It goes against everything a Christmas story should be, while still somehow remaining a Christmas story. There are no magical elves or flying reindeer, there are no sappy romances or Christmas miracles. There isn’t even any milk or cookies. And yet it’s still hilarious and thought-provoking and ultimately good.
- The characters are brilliantly well-written. Between Luther’s determination, Nora’s timidness, and the neighbours’ blatant disapproval, everyone stands out. The characters are interesting and amusing and could keep the reader entertained for hours.
- A common side effect of Christmas novels is their nonsensical plot and unfortunately, Skipping Christmas is no different. Everything that makes this novel entertaining also makes it ridiculous. For those of you who prefer straight forward stories, or at least some semblance of a plot, then this isn’t the book for you.
- The Kranks are aptly named. Luther is misanthropic and seems to be at war with the world, while Nora is overly passive and meek. If you removed these two characters and placed them in any other story, they would undoubtedly be hated. Fortunately for Grisham, this book has just the right level of absurdity for them to fit right in.
- It completely and utterly fails the Bechdel test. There is only one female character that gets any page time at all and she is displayed as a frantic, subservient woman who follows whatever her husband says. The Kranks daughter, Blair, is whimsical and impulsive, Nora’s female friends are flimsy and gossipy, and the only seemingly normal woman only gets half a dozen lines because she’s dying. Not what I’d call ‘representation’.
Overall, I’d give John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas a three out of five. It’s light-hearted and quick to read, perfect for a casual Christmas afternoon.
I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Hallmark-type novels or easy-going comedies.
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