Friday, October 16, 2009

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck, as reviewed by Atlas

You just have to love Grandma Dowdel. She does what she wants, and she does it with style. Not the kind of style you'll see on the cover of a magazine, but the kind you'll remember. Someone told me once of a beauty pageant contestant who, for her talent portion, gutted and skinned a raccoon while chatting cheerfully with the judges (she won). That young lady would have earned a nod of approval from Mrs. Dowdel, even if the latter wouldn't have much use for beauty pageants in general.

We of course met Grandma Dowdel in A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago. If you haven't read those yet, you'll still enjoy this book, but not nearly as much. She doesn't feature as heavily in this book as in the other two, but everything that happens is flavored or influenced by her. She has mellowed out a bit, letting her kinder side show without losing any of the gruffness. I thought her age was given at one point, but I can't seem to find it now - at any rate, she is now a great-grandmother, so has to be in her eighties at least. While she has always been portrayed as a tough old bird, I did find it a little unrealistic to see no physical slowing-down.

That was my only beef with the story. I know there has been some controversy about the Kickapoo Princess episodes, but to me that's like being offended by racism in Huckleberry Finn. It's part of the flavor of the times, and you could just as easily be offended by half the other events in this book. We had a 22-year-old Kickapoo friend read chapter 6, but she was laughing too hard at the sorority girls to tell us whether she was offended or not.

Grab it for Christmas and read a chapter a night with your family. In addition to being constantly in stitches, you may find yourselves getting into the true spirit of the season more quickly than with any of the schmaltzy tales that usually come out at this time.

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