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

Skipping Christmas


If you believe the publisher’s press release (and that’s almost as rational as believing in Santa), John Grisham’s novella Skipping Christmas is ”certain to become as timeless and beloved a classic as ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Grinch.”’ Grisham certainly begs comparisons to Scrooge with his main character, the all-too-aptly named Luther Krank, a miserly modern-day tax accountant who decides to save the money he’d normally spend on decorations and gifts and take his wife, Nora, on a cruise instead. (The cutesy monikers don’t end with the Kranks — two of Nora’s Xmas-obsessed friends are named Candi and Merry.)

Even at 177 minipages, ”Skipping Christmas” feels padded, as Luther’s attempt to elude the holiday celebration becomes a scandal in his unnamed town. The furor over his refusal to join all the other homeowners on his block and put a Frosty the Snowman statue on his roof is meant to be a satire of suburbia, but it reads more like a bad sitcom. (Plus, are there no Jews, Buddhists, or Muslims in this neighborhood?) Despite a few nicely observed details — like Nora’s emergency stash of Christmas cards, ”so she could respond immediately to an unexpected card” — Grisham mostly trades in stale fruitcake jokes and sub?”Christmas Vacation” slapstick. Like his recent coming-of-age novel, ”A Painted House,” ”Skipping” represents a departure for the king of the legal thrillers, but in this case, it’s to an unworthy destination.

Skipping Christmas

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