True Review
Current Issue Number 74 Vol.19 No.3  February 2010
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS:

A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS, by Mike Huckabee. Sentinel/Penguin Group (www.penguin.com), 2009, 231 pp., $19.95. ISBN 978-1-59523-062-1
 
On the back cover of this book is a letter, written by Gov. Huckabee to his readers. He talks about writing this book in the sweltering heat of July in Little Rock, Ark., and states, “I can picture you reading these words in November or December…”

(Hmm, could he have imagined one of us reading it in, say, late January? Probably not.)

Around about the fourth week in January, when the holiday hoopla had died down and the credit card balance had risen, I finally had a chance to open the cover of A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS. And I felt like I had “A Simple Christmas,” living it through his words and the stories he tells of his life growing up as a boy in Hope, Ark. through his rise to governor of that same state up until today.

Most of us love Christmas. Not the overdone, everything-but-the-baby-Jesus-Christmas, but the sounds and the smells and the overall goodwill that seems to seep through every nook and cranny at that time of year.

Sadly though, we often fall into that oh-so-familiar trap of overpromising, overextending, overspending, over-everything. There’s just nothing simple about the holidays for most of us.

Governor Huckabee makes the point that Christmas and all its traditions represent consistency in a world of uncertainty and confusion. It’s the sameness we relish. (Unless, as he describes, it’s about HAVING TO HAVE Ambrosia at dinner every year.) What’s really important is to have “A Simple Christmas.” More importantly, it’s about living and appreciating a simple life all year long.

A Simple Christmas is a sometimes funny, sometimes tender, sometimes a “tear-in-the-corner-of-your-eye” collection of stories. The governor wraps his recollections into chapters with one-word titles such as “Sacrifice,” “Loneliness,” “Hope,” and “Stability,” to name a few.

Sometimes, the stories are howlingly funny. Chapter 4 gives a play-by-play description of Gov. Huckabees’s extended family, strikingly similar to the relatives we all have and wish, in many cases, we could stash in the broom closet when our “respectable” friends come to call.

The governor’s description of his father accidently sticking his finger in a Christmas tree light bulb socket is priceless. I’ve never seen a swear word spelled quite that way before. Chapter 4 screams “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” sequel. (Note to governor: Call Chevy Chase and collaborate. We are long overdue!)

You can’t help thinking of your own history as you read this book.

I couldn’t help thinking of the Christmas I had in 1976, when I was a newlywed who had just moved to Hagerstown, Md. My former husband, who lacked patience with a capital-P, and I, with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, went shopping for a tree.

We selected a beauty. Too bad it was about 4-5 feet longer than my 2-door, shiny yellow 1975 Camaro.

After more calculations than NASA performs prior to putting a man into orbit, we managed to get the tree into the car, with a healthy portion sticking out the front window. (That was one cold ride home).

Upon arriving, we found the tree was also too wide and tall to fit through our front door. My then-husband, doing his best “Frosty Goes Berserk” imitation, stood in the front yard of our townhouse community, cursing, chopping off a foot, and then another foot, until the tree was finally short enough to fit through the door of our townhouse. (No wonder the Kranks just wanted to get out of town.)

We decorated the tree. It looked great. And three days later, all the needles turned brown and fell off. It looked like a tree that had gone through one of those California wildfires. Only this time, the wildfire’s name was Ed.

Yes, we all have our stories. And the governor has some great ones.

If you’ve ever lost a loved one, or provided care for one during a health crisis, his story of Uncle Garvin will tug at your heartstrings. With love and affection and frankness, Gov. Huckabee recalls his family taking his bachelor uncle in after a fatal diagnosis, their last Christmas with him, and the care they provided until his death.

Along the way, Gov. Huckabee spins a sort of Christmas magic with his tales of much-wanted gifts such as footballs and guitars and, years later, new babies and new houses, all intertwined in some way with the holiday season.

A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS is, to me, a Christmas classic in the making. In times of discord or confusion, classics comfort. They provide a chuckle or a sense of hope. They bring back memories, sometimes happy, sometimes not. They’re a safe port in a storm . . . or a welcome respite from reality. A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS is just that.

Often, when I’m finished reading a book, I give it to a friend or donate it to a shelter. Not this one. It’s a keeper, tucked safely on my bookshelf until next Christmas.

And so, here’s my Christmas wish:

Dear Santa,

Please give everyone a copy of Gov. Huckabees book, A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS. Perhaps then there will really be Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and Women . . . and the hope of A Simple Christmas.

Whether you read this book in January or November or June, the message is a good one. Slow down. Enjoy life. Appreciate what you have. And take time to savor the good times and good friends. A great message any time of the year.

Debra Jackson-Andrews

 

Black Hills - Dan Simmons Warriors - George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois Additional Reviews Diving Into The Wreck - Kristine Kathryn Rusch The Jewel Hinged Jaw - Samuel R. Delaney

Boilerplate - Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett Swords From The Desert - Howard Andrew Jones Shades of Gray - Jasper Fforde Muse and Reverie - Charles de Lint Dinner at Mr. Jefferson's - Charles A. Cerami

The Raindrop's Adventure - Kimberly Kerr An Irish Country Christmas - Patrick Taylor Twilight Zone - Carol Serling Home For Christmas - Andrew M. Greeley Amelia Earhart - Lori Van Pelt

A Simple Christams - Mike Huckabee Puttering About in a Small Land - Philip K. Dick   Are You There - Jack Skillingstead The Fantasy Writer's Assistant - Jeffrey Ford

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CYBERABAD DAYS, by Ian McDonald. Pyr/Prometheus (www.prometheusbooks.com), 2009, 279 pp., $15.00. ISBN 978-1-59102-699-0

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BY BLOOD WE LIVE, ed. by John Joseph Adams. Night Shade Books (www.nightshadebooks.com), 2009, 485 pp., $15.95. ISBN 978-1-59780-156-0

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TWO EXCELLENT TACHYON ANTHOLOGIES:

THE SECRET HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION, ed. by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. Tachyon (www.tachyonpublications.com), 2009, 381 pp., $14.95. ISBN 978-1-892391-93-3

I remember reading most of these SF classics when they were first published, with seminal work by Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Lucius Shepard, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, James Patrick Kelly, and many others.

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THE VERY BEST OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, 60th Anniversary Anthology, ed. by Gordon Van Gelder. Tachyon (www.tachyonpublications.com), 2009, 475 pp., $15.95. ISBN 978-1-892391-91-9

Many of these I read collected in other anthologies, and some I read in the magazine itself. (I have subscribed to F&SF regularly from 1977-2007, and off and on since 2008.) Included are works by Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, Damon Knight, Ursula K. LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, Ted Chiang, and others).


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