Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Tinsel - Hank Stuever

*** December Book Club Pick ***

In Tinsel, Hank Stuever turns his unerring eye for the idiosyncrasies of modern life to Frisco, Texas, a suburb at once all-American and completely itself, to tell the story of the nation's most over-the-top celebration: Christmas. Stuever starts the narrative as so many start the Christmas season: standing in line with the people waiting to purchase flat-screen TVs on Black Friday. From there he follows three of Frisco's true holiday believers as they navigate through the Nativity and all its attendant crises. Tammie Parnell, an eternally optimistic suburban mom, is the proprietor of "Two Elves with a Twist," a company that decorates other people's big houses for Christmas. Jeff and Bridgette Trykoski own that house every town has: the one with the visible-from-space, most awe-inspiring Christmas lights. And single mother Caroll Cavazos just hopes that the life-affirming moments of Christmas might overcome the struggles of the rest of the year. Stuever's portraits of this happy, megachurchy, shopariffic community are at once humane, heartfelt, revealing--and very funny. Tinsel is a compelling tale of our half-trillion-dollar holiday, measuring what we we've become against the ancient rituals of what we've always been.- Amazon
I wasn't sure what kind of angle this book might take, but I was plesantly surprised on the tone and direction the book took.  Hank's writing style makes the book easy to read, but it's not just a narrative of his observations.  He includes history tidbits about Christmas and facts and figures as well. I found myself thinking that I wish I could get my father to read this book.  He's a fanatic decorator (and not just at Christmas) and loves to look at Christmas lights.

My favorite passage from the book:
This is where I'm searching for America's Christmas present.  This is where I've disappeared.  The star in the east would turn out to be a long line of jumbo jets in the lavender dusk, their bright lights aligned in a near-perfect conjunction, on approach to D/FW. (Radiant beams of Thy holy face.  With the dawn of redeeming grace.)  - page 16. 
I'm not a huge fan of holiday books, but I recommend this book because it provides a bit more substance than a typical holiday fiction book. You get the heartwarming story on top of an interesting analysis of the activities that are part of a typical holiday season.

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