Ho ho ho, my little Bookworms! (I know not all of you celebrate Christmas, so on behalf of humanity, I apologize for you having to deal with this craziness every December. However… Saying “ho ho ho” is humorous on a number of levels, so I’m standing by my greeting.)
I’ve mentioned before that I love Fannie Flagg. It’s sort of a guilty pleasure thing, because I am fully aware that her novels aren’t highbrow literary fanciness. That said, they offer warm fuzzy feelings I haven’t found in anyone else’s work. Plus, southern charm is so darn whimsical, I can’t help myself. Soooo, when I saw that Fannie Flagg wrote a Christmas novel, I was all over it.
The book in question is called A Redbird Christmas. There’s this middle aged man who lives in Chicago. He’s told by his doctor he’s basically going to die because his lungs suck and his innards are broken and that he needs to move someplace warm so he doesn’t die like today. The guy’s name is Oswald. It’s Oswald because that name was the next on the list at the orphanage where he was deposited as a baby in a basket inexplicably containing a can of Campbell’s soup. Because the nuns had a sense of humor, they named him Oswald Campbell. (I just looked it up- there IS in fact a Saint Oswald. I was about to complain about a Catholic orphanage having a list of baby names that weren’t saints, but there are a LOT of saints… Even an Oswald, apparently.)
Anyway, Oswald is given this random brochure for a health resort in Lost River, Alabama. Sadly, the health resort no longer exists, but he’s given reasonable room and board by one of the residents, so he decides to make the move. In typical Flagg fashion, there is a lot of southern cuteness to be had in this novel. There are neurotic old women who dye their hair crazy colors. The town’s mail is all delivered via boat since all the homes are located on piers along the river. The town’s only grocery store is run by an eccentric man who allows a crippled cardinal free reign over his store. (This part made me cringe a little. I don’t care how many tricks you can teach a bird, there is no teaching a bird not to poop on the produce. Not cool.)
One day a little girl shows up. There are people who live “back in the woods” who are basically transient and terrible at taking care of their children. (No “trailer trash” stereotypes here or anything. Oh, wait…) The little girl in question is named Patsy. She’s been abandoned by her father and stuck with a stepmother who doesn’t want her. She’s got a birth defect that causes a pronounced limp, and her sweet vulnerable little girlness charms the whole darn town. When the stepmother decides to skip town and doesn’t want to take Patsy, Frances (one of Lost River’s most prominent ladies) jumps at the opportunity to raise the little girl. Patsy, no surprise, bonds with Jack (the bird) and sweet loveliness ensues.
Frances takes Patsy to a doctor to see about getting her leg fixed- it’ll require an expensive series of surgeries and a lot of emotional support. The town really bands together to raise the money to help Patsy, but nobody can get through to the little girl like that darn bird. Unfortunately, birds don’t have a super long life expectancy. So… Well, I’m not going to get into all the spoilers. If you’re even remotely interested in this sort of word candy, I don’t want to ruin it for you. (Be sure to floss! Novels this level of sweetness are sure to cause cavities.)
To be quite honest, this wasn’t my favorite Fannie Flagg offering. I didn’t get wrapped up in the lives of the characters the way I did in some of her other books. Since I wasn’t expecting it to be the greatest book I’d ever read, and it still warmed my snarky little heart, I’ll say it was alright. It won’t stick with you, but it won’t make you want to gouge your eyes out either. Probably. Unless you really hate birds, Alabama, Christmas, and sugar. Then don’t read this at all. Not even a word of it. If you’re interested in a holiday read that’s sweeter than southern style sweet tea (seriously, you might get diabetes from this novel) give this a shot (of insulin. Oooooh I’m punny today!)
Do any of you Bookworms out there have a favorite holiday read? I’d love to add to my seasonal reading collection!