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For the Love of St Nick: 01/22/09
After reading so many reviews describing For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone as heartwarming and a soon to be Christmas classic I'm going to have be the Scrooge in the group. The story of "Tiger" and Johnny and Commander (their father) trying to be a family during the Vietnam war didn't work for me. Tiger's description of growing up first in San Diego and then in northern Michigan reads more like a "what I did for summer vacation" report than the emotionally charged Christmas novella I was expecting.
A number of plot points in St. Nick left me asking why. First there was the boys' closeness to their dead mother. She dies in childbirth with Johnny. Tiger is three at the time. While Tiger might have some vague memories of his mother and he would be closest to his his father, his Nanny, his grandmother (Nana Beth). Johnny wouldn't have any memory of her and it's difficult to pine for someone you've never met.
My next set of questions focus on Johnny's illness. He seems to get sick more to drive the plot than for any believable reason. His weakened immune system is mentioend in passing but if you want me to believe it, give his condition a name. Does he have leukemia? Lupis? Some sort of rare genetic disease? Let me know so I can get into his head. Instead, Johnny's illnesses, especially the final one is set up as a reason for a Christmas miracle.
Finally, there is the family connection that bothers me. It's the Vietnam war and the Commander was some sort of important mission to run. With this commitments to the Navy he's pretty much an absent father. In his place, there is Mrs. Pennington, the nanny but even she seems to be absent enough that Tiger is raising his sickly brother by himself. How exactly is this situation heartwarming? Heartbreaking , yes but again it feels like an artiificial situation set up for the benefit of the whiz bang miracle ending.
Since the story didn't hold my attention and I didn't get absorbed into the world of Tiger and Johnny, I found myself picking up on the errors in the book. I am more willing to forgive errata if the plot keeps me moving along. If the book becomes a chore, I start to pick nits. There are typos both in spelling and with spacing (words running together) and stray puncutation (floating quotes in the middle of a sentence). Then there are the historical gaffs; Tiger has a picture of his mother cut from her "hard plastic" California driver's license. Up through the late 1980s, the licenses were printed on thick paper. I don't think they were even laminated.
If you are looking for a Christmas novella to read, I recommend instead The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans or the old classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Comment #1: Saturday, January, 24, 2009 at 17:30:42
yes, you and I share a rather negative opinion of the book. I am not sure what book those that loved it were reading...;-)
Comment #2: Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 20:49:24
There's an audience for everything. You and I just aren't part of it for this book.
Comment #3: Saturday, January, 24, 2009 at 19:00:12
I have way too many Christmas books to read already so I guess I can pass on this one. It sounds disappointing.
Comment #4: Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 20:53:21
It's lacking the magic of other Christmas stories I've read. Enjoy the ones you already have. Happy reading!