The Christmas Box

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This is not Skipping Christmas or A Redbird Christmas - light and fun like I was expecting. This reads in a surreal way - almost like watching The Twilight Zone because everything just seems a little too perfect and serene. Everything is wonderful and beautiful and gilded and pretty - a powdered-sugar dusting on the Christmas cookies that is strange coming from a male author and told from the husband's perspective. I've read another book by the same author, The Walk, and didn't have any problems with it. It too was told from a husband's perspective. It too was a bit surreal yet it read very well. I would much rather have re-read that book (something I never do) than have read this book. Even though it was a quick read it just seems like a lot was missing and therefore like I wasted my time on a half-finished work.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 0

Religion: 4

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 2

Morality: 1

Sex - no mention of it

Religion - It does not escape notice that in a story with Christmas in the title, the name of a central character is Mary. Obviously the theme is heavily religious, yet I didn't score it a 5 because there was still a lot more of religion that could have been said.

Gruesome - the only thing gruesome was people experiencing the natural death process

Suspense - a small amount of suspense but nothing that will keep you awake from your afternoon nap, much less all night

Morality - really no moral issues to deal with other than a man trying to juggle starting a business and spending time with hsi family

When we first meet Mary she is seated in an ornate room and never stands. I thought perhaps she was disabled but several pages later she was not. Perhaps it was just the tone of the book that made me suspect things were not as they seemed. Right from the start the tone is slightly odd.

I read the opening paragraph five times and still can't wrap my head around it. It starts off in a very straight forward manner which makes me feel like the author has written a foreword but indeed it is the narrator. he seems to contradict himself by saying maybe he's used up his allotment of words but then deciding to write a story. He also expresses dislike for story analysis but then continues in recording the story on paper - opening itself up for more in depth analysis than an oral folk-tale would. He also tells us that he is old but then they story goes into flashback and we hear a young narrator which again was a contradiction in my mind until I reread and followed through with focus and actually noted the point of flashback.At the beginning of Chapter Two, the author says he doesn't want to go on about boxes but since it's an important part of the story, he will. So it's another contradiction like the beginning of Chapter One.

Grandiose language such as (p. 37) I adroitly rationalized my absence from home on necessity and told myself that my family would someday welcome the sacrifice by feasting with me, on the fruits of my labors. In retrospect, I should have tasted those fruits for bitterness a little more often adds to the oddities of this book.

Of interest is the tale referenced by Mary on page 47 when she gives "Christmas Every Day" by William Dean Howells to Richard to read to his daughter Jenna. The tale was originally published in 1892. Mr. Evans re-discovered it and re-published it after many requests resulted from his mention of it in this story. His republishing includes a foreword by himself.

Recently I came across the movie based on this book playing on the UP channel. The movie had quite a bit more detail than the book. I think, in a rare case, it was actually better than the book because it resolved a lot of my feeling of not getting the full story.

Discussion Questions

Question: Which of the senses do you think was most affected by Christmas? (p. 49)

Question: What was the first Christmas gift? (p. 56)

Question: How do you explain the music playing?

Question: Who did you think the letters were to/from?

Question: Richard says, "somewhere between the angel and Mary's house [he] figured it out. The first gift of Christmas." (p. 78) Do you think he had received enough guidance to figure it out?

Theme Ideas

Serve peppermint tea from an embossed, silver-plated tea service like when Kery and her husband first met Mary at her house.

Serve roast beef and gravy with fresh baked rolls like Mary served at dinner.