A Redbird Christmas

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If you've ever read anything by Fannie Flagg, you'll feel right at home for Christmas with this December selection made by our newest member of the group (who will sadly be leaving the group in 2013). Her other selection was The 19th Wife. Having already read Skipping Christmas (2010) and The Christmas Cookie Club (2011), this seemed like an obvious choice for our December meeting.

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex: 0

Religion: 1

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 2

Morality: 5

Sex - No references at all.

Religion - Obviously the characters celebrate Christmas, but there is no real evidence of practicing religion except a casual mention of ladies going to church. A couple of the characters seem to question the need for church-going or strong belief in God.

Gruesome - The most gruesome subjects were taxidermy and a child's deformity.

Suspense - The suspense was mild. It's nothing you'd be afraid to read alone on a windy night, but it is exciting at the end to see how it is all going to play out and is suspenseful in the sense that it keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens.

Morality - All of the characters consistently do the right thing, are kind to their neighbors, and charitable to the poor.

You might be aware that Fannie Flagg is the author behind the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. I listened to this book on CDs that I downloaded to my iPod. Previously I had listened to CDs in the car of Fannie Flagg's "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven". Hearing the author read the story is ever more delightful as her southern accent really adds to the feel of the story. Ms. Flagg has a talent for layering character upon character such that you can't imagine why she's introducing any more characters but in the end she wraps them all up nicely in one large package. When you are spending time with one set of characters you enjoy them so much that when she transitions to another setting you are at once sad (to leave the previous character behind) but happy (to reconnect with a character that you haven't seen in a few pages).

The story begins with Oswald T. Campbell getting diagnosed with only a short time to live. His doctor recommends that he go south for the winter to improve his health. He winds up in Lost River, Arkansas, population 108. He has trouble filling time on his first few days but soon settles into a routine and becomes a member of the community. Small as the town is, there was always something going on and this book is never boring.

It is the perfect December book club pick because it is a fast read and truly captures the holiday spirit. I finished listening to the book as I was driving around doing my Black Friday shopping. Later that day and the next, as I was decorating my house, I found myself wondering how the old folks in Lost River were doing - and then realized they weren't real. But they had become as dear to me in the three days that I had spend listening to their story as an old favorite aunt. I always think it is a sign of a good author who makes the characters seem so real that you wonder about them days later.

Discussion Questions

Question: Did you think it was a fluke that all the redbirds appeared?

Question: What did you think of the ending? Was it a little too neat and tidy or was it nice to have everything all neatly wrapped up?

In the audio version there was a bonus track interview with the author in which she said she likes to write about small towns because she would get too confused if she wrote about a town as large as Los Angeles or New York since she sees the town as another character. Yet, one of the trademarks of her writing is layers of characters.

Question: Did you find the amount of characters manageable or too many to keep straight?

Question: Have you ever experienced a Christmas miracle?

Question: Have you ever had a part in making a "Christmas miracle"?

Theme Ideas

Serve tomato soup since Oswald T. Campbell was named after the Campbell's Tomato soup can he was found with.

Serve some of Jack's favorites: Cracker Jacks, Ritz crackers, Peanut Butter, Vanilla Wafers, Potato Chips, Chocolate Covered Buddy Bars, Marshmallows or Sunflower Seeds

Serve Creole food.

Facilitate your book club's participation in donating Christmas gifts to an orphanage, children's home or children's hospital.