The Christmas List
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: October, 2009
Hardback, 352 pages
ISBN 10: 1439150001
When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, gave our class the intriguing (if somewhat macabre) assignment of writing our own obituaries. Oddly, I don't remember much of what I wrote about my life, but I do remember how I died: in first place on the final lap of the Daytona 500. At the time, I hadn't considered writing as an occupation, a field with a remarkably low on-the-job casualty rate.
What intrigues me most about Mrs. Johnson's assignment is the opportunity she gave us to confront our own legacy. How do we want to be remembered? That question has motivated our species since the beginning of time: from building pyramids to putting our names on skyscrapers.
As I began to write this book, I had two objectives: First, I wanted to explore what could happen if someone read their obituary before they died and saw, firsthand, what the world really thought of them. Their legacy.
Second, I wanted to write a Christmas story of true redemption. One of my family's holiday traditions is to see a local production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I don't know how many times I've seen it (perhaps a dozen), but it still thrills me to see the change that comes over Ebenezer Scrooge as he transforms from a dull, tight-fisted miser into a penitent, "giddy-as-aschoolboy" man with love in his heart. I always leave the show with a smile on my face and a resolve to be a better person. That's what I wanted to share with you, my dear readers, this Christmas -- a holiday tale to warm your season, your homes, and your hearts.
Merry Christmas --Richard Paul Evans
My Take: I read this book in one sitting .. really .. well, except for getting up to refill the java, making plates up for dinner, going to the restroom, resolving a sibling squabble .. the usual territory of moms trying to just get a couple of hours of quiet time for reading.
This is the tale of a modern-day Scrooge named James Kier, a real-estate mogul who forbids Christmas decorations in his office and who rejoices with every new ill-gotten gain he receives at someone else's loss.
Separated from his wife of almost 25 years, Sara, and estranged from his only son Jimmy (who stopped talking to him after Sara was served with divorce papers as she arrived home from her first round of chemotherapy treatments), Kier reads his death notice while on a mini vacay in Park City as he waits for his fiancee Traci (whom he met one week after separating from his wife) to join him.
He telephones his only friend, Lincoln (also his heartless attorney), to let him know that he's still alive. He decides to "play this out" for a couple of days and see what happens. Against Lincoln's advice, he goes online and views the comments that accompany his death notice, where he is surprised at the venom directed against him, including comments that he can tell come from a long-term employee named Tim.
He comes home and finds out how torn up his fiancee is about his supposed death. Uneasy at the legacy he's left, he enlists the help of his long-term secretary, Linda, to formulate a Christmas list of all of the people he's hurt or offended and he resolves to make amends.
This is a great Christmas story, quick and fun to read. Four of Richard Paul Evans' books have already been made into television movies, and as I read, I could easily envision this book as one of them. It IS rather black and white in places, and Jim's villainy is a bit over the top. It also could have used a bit more development in what feelings made Jim decide to attempt to change, but that's the nature of the story - it's not meant to be a huge character study.
Illustrating that it's not too late to change, and also that sometimes you CAN'T make amends for the hurts you've caused, I think that this would make a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys holiday stories, or even stories about family and redemption. Although the book is set during Christmas season, it can definitely be enjoyed any time of year.
When he first moved in, he had a carpenter cut nearly two inches off the legs of his guest chairs as well as an additional half inch off the front so the occupant was not only forced to look up to him but always felt a little off balance. One one occasion, when negotiating a multimillion-dollar real estate purchase, he had slipped Dramamine into his client's coffee to make him drowsy. To Kier, all was fair in business.
Lincoln started to laugh. "It's really you. I've been freaking out here. I thought you were dead. Or do they have pay phones in hell?"
"No, they have cell phones, they just drop the call every five seconds."
"As fortune would have it, in 1888, Nobel's brother Emil died. A French newspaper mistook his brother for him and ran an article with the headline, Le marchand de lat mort est mort, 'The merchant of death is dead.' It went on to say that Dr. Alfred Nobel became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before. That was the first of many such articles. Nobel was so upset by what he read about himself that he decided to change his legacy. He left his fortune to the establishment of the Nobel Peace Prize."
Book Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
About the Author:
RICHARD PAUL EVANS is the #1 best-selling author of The Christmas Box. His fourteen novels have each appeared on the New York Times bestseller list; there are more than thirteen million copies of his books in print. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers. He is the winner of the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards for his children’s books, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award. Evans received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award for his work helping abused children. Evans lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children.
Visit the author's website
Buy the book: At Amazon, and other on-and-off-line booksellers.
If you've already read this, try picking up his newest book:
Promise Me - The bestselling Evans is back with another earnest tale set around a certain holiday in December, but this time he's got something up his sleeve. Beth has everything, a loving husband, an adorable daughter ("a joyful combination of lunacy and grace"), and a great job where she works with friends. But when her daughter becomes mysteriously ill, and she discovers that her husband is dying, her perfect life falls apart. She is soon impoverished and embittered, and still can't discern the source of her daughter's illness. Then she meets a handsome stranger, who diagnoses the illness and convinces the wary Beth to trust again, only to disappear with the home equity loan he pushed her into getting. Devastated once again, Beth's resolve is tested when he returns with a truly unbelievable story. Believing him means altering the entire course of her life. Evans combines his usual holiday themes with a bizarre twist lifted straight from science fiction. Readers will undoubtedly feel attached to Beth, even as they struggle to understand the bizarre relationship she finds herself entering into. - Publishers Weekly
|This book is part of my 2010 Holiday Reading Challenge list|
|This book is part of my Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge List|
Disclosure: This is a review of my own personal copy of this title. I was not compensated in any way for this post.