By Bruce Fretts
November 21, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Christmas in Plains

B+

For an authentic account of country-style holidays, check out Jimmy Carter’s Christmas in Plains, a sequel to his best-selling boyhood memoir, ”An Hour Before Daylight.” (Oddly, once-unpopular Presidents Carter and Nixon have enjoyed greater authorial success than the more widely approved Ronald Reagan, a fact that doesn’t bode well for Bill Clinton’s $10 million-plus book deal with Knopf.) In plainspoken prose, Carter recalls winters spent in his bucolic Georgia hometown, a beacon of calm that he finds himself drawn back to every December ”like the North Pole on a magnetic needle.”

His childhood anecdotes mix familiar Christmas traditions like church pageants, fireplaces, eggnog — Carter even includes his father Earl’s recipe for the beverage — with such regionally specific customs as setting off fireworks, firing buckshot at trees to gather mistletoe, and killing hogs for a seasonal treat known as sousemeat (”a conglomeration of feet, ears, faces, and other parts”). But the book’s best sections recount the four holidays Carter spent in the White House. Among the notable moments: Bob Hope’s fruitless offer to stage a show for the U.S. hostages in Iran; Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s embarrassing plea for people to spend the season praying for Carter’s recovery from hemorrhoids; and the President’s mad search to secure a scarce Trivial Pursuit game.

”Christmas in Plains”’ sole flaws are the rudimentary illustrations drawn by the President’s daughter, Amy. They suggest the work of a talented 12-year-old rather than the grown-up woman Amy is now. But only a Scrooge — or a Krank — would complain.

Christmas in Plains

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