Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: Keeping Christmas

Keeping Christmas. Dan Walsh. 2015. Revell. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I "enjoy" reading Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh? Yes and no. Yes, by the end of the novel there was a bit of hope shining brightly through the darkness. But, it took a LOT to get a ray of light into this novel. Most of the novel is dark and bleak. At least emotionally speaking.

There are two sides of this story. The husband's side AND the wife's side. Judith, the wife, is emotionally in a very dark, deeply dark place. She isn't just sad and lonely, she's DEPRESSED and not really functioning well. Her husband tries and fails to reach her in her current mental state. Her best friend tries and mostly fails to reach her as well. Though she's marginally more successful than her husband in doing so, neither her husband or her friend can "fix" her. Stan, the husband, is somewhat clueless as to how to connect with his wife. She's not acting herself at all. And the way she is acting is freaking him out a bit. So much so that he even stops his normal activities--fishing, fishing, more fishing--to try to solve his wife's problems.

What makes this Christmas different from all the other Christmases they've celebrated as a couple? This is the first Christmas where none of her grown children (and their families) will come to their house. They have three children, each child now grown and married and with children of their own. Each live in a different state. In past years, they've always come home for Christmas thereby giving her something to look forward to. The idea of it being just her and Stan for Christmas depresses her considerably.

Some elements of this one are more realistic than others. I think depression, whether holiday-centered depression or depression-depression is realistic. It happens. I think families sometimes are clueless when it comes to helping or "helping" their depressed loved ones. I think some superficial fixing was going on in this novel. (If only you went shopping and spent money, you wouldn't be sad anymore!) I think the ending was more unrealistic perhaps. It was the happy movie-ending we all expected from page one. Part of me thinks it was too predictable and too artificial. Dare I say too coincidental? 

Also, I found myself disliking the main character. Instead of sympathizing with her, I found myself thinking of her more and more as selfish and unrealistic. She's unable to cope with the 'loss' of having her children home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And perhaps through guilt mixed in mightily with love she gets promises out of all her grown children to never, ever, ever make other plans for Christmas. Forever and ever they are bound to their promise to come home for Christmas. I find this unrealistic and selfish. For never once does she consider the OTHER side of the family. When a couple gets married, there are two sets of parents, their children will have two sets of grandparents. Both sets of  parents--grandparents--will naturally want to spend time with them during the holidays. Both sets of parents--grandparents--will miss them if they don't get home for the holidays. Both sets of parents--grandparents--have decades of traditions that are important and somewhat unique to them. It is all kinds of wrong to presume that only one side of the family matters, and, that some people's feelings have more value. Other readers may see a happy ending, but, I see a selfish one. At least in part. For her children's promises to her--made in the moment--have sentenced all the "other" side of the families to never having the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: