Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Christmas Sweater - Glenn Beck

Summary: If you could change your life by reversing your biggest regrets, sorrows, and mistakes...would you?

When Eddie was twelve years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a bike. Although his life had gotten harder--and money tighter--since his father died and the family bakery closed...Eddie dreamed that somehow his mother would find a way to have his dream bike gleaming beside their modest Christmas tree that magical morning.

What he got from her instead was a sweater. "A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater" that young Eddie left in a crumpled ball in the corner of his room.

Scarred deeply by the realization that kids don't always get what they want, and too young to understand that he already owned life's most valuable treasures, that Christmas morning was the beginning of Eddie's dark and painful journey on the road to manhood. It will take wrestling with himself, his faith, and his family--and the guidance of a mysterious neighbor named Russell--to help Eddie find his path through the storm clouds of life and finally see the real significance of that simple gift his mother had crafted by hand with love in her heart. (summary from book - image from save.org)

My review: This month for book club we decided to all pick different Christmas stories and then get together and share those stories over cocoa and Christmas goodies. Theoretically, we'd all be uplifted by the condensed versions and leave refreshed and overflowing with Christmas cheer. Gosh, I hope everyone else has better stories or we're all out of luck.

Beck’s writing wasn’t exceedingly wonderful in the beginning, but I was willing to put it aside since the story seemed to be heading in the right direction—a typical Christmas story with a young, self-involved boy, about to learn his lesson—up until the loss of both his parents. After that, the book took a bit of a nosedive. The middle and latter half of the book were so full of Eddie’s unhappiness that it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the angst. Though I suppose Beck’s version was probably an accurate picture of what a child suffering the loss of his parents would act like, I got a little tired of Eddie’s griping and taking his anger out on everyone. It went on for so long that I started to lose interest (and Christmas cheer).

Beck also tried way too hard to force his message through the mouths of his characters, instead of letting the story speak for itself. Eddie’s Grandfather and the mysterious Russell (who kinda creeped me out) hardly spoke a word that wasn’t a mini-lecture or symbolic story designed to deliver precious truths to the reader. Truths they may have been (and were), but I was so irritated by the delivery that I tended to skim through their monologues. Still, I was hoping for one whopper of an ending to turn it all around.

At this point, I guess I should have been expecting the ending I got. I’m going to do something here that I rarely do. I’m going to SPOIL THE ENDING. So, if you actually want to read this book, you might want to stop reading here. Okay. I warned you. It was all a dream. Yup, a dream. Eddie’s mom didn’t die and he ended up getting the bike he always wanted. I won’t pretend that I didn’t like the happy ending better – it was the kind of ending you’d expect from a Christmas story--but I was still MAD! I'd read 2/3 of a book about Eddie’s hurt, rage, and a mountain of his convoluted internal (and external) dialogue and it was ALL FOR NOTHING. Grr.

The only thing that saved this book from a full-on 2 star rating was the fact that I felt that the message he was trying to deliver about the Atonement and achieving personal happiness was important. Had the story been about 150+ pages shorter and focused more on telling the story and less on forcing the obviously important message, I think it would have made a much more uplifting Christmas read and, ironically, the message would have been perfectly clear.

PS. In case you're wondering, like Glenn, I'm LDS and I like a lot of what he has to say politically. I feel bad about this review, but it's honestly how I felt. I think he should stick to selling inconvenient books and arguing with idiots.

My rating: 2.75 Stars

Sum it up: Good beginning. Good end. Soul-sucking middle with a good message that gets lost in all the lecturing.

4 comments:

Sweet Em said...

I can't think of any quotes off hand but I'm fairly sure that a story that turns out to be a dream is one of the worst story endings possible.

I'm cynical about some of these Christmas books...and I won't go into my opinion about Glen Beck...(can we still be friends?)...but I was considering reading this at some point. Thanks for saving me from it.

Leslie said...

Mindy, I had read this book before I read your review...I wanted to see if we have the "same taste". AND I felt exactly the same way about this book that you did! Bleh! Is all I can say. Now I am going to find a book you recommend (that I haven't read) and read that.

Thanks for your review! Leslie

MindySue said...

Awwww shucks. You're making me blush. My top picks right now are "The School of Essential Ingredients" by Erica Bauermeister, "House of Gentle Men" by Kathy Hepinstall, "The Thirteenth Tale" by Dianne Setterfield, and "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett...and that's just in Adult Fiction.

Popular Reads! said...

The ending was very cheesy but overall the story was good.

A Inconvenient Book was a nightmare to read. It had too many pictures. I'm not a little boy!:)

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