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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 11, 2001

Grisham's latest novel easy reading

By Bob Minzesheimer
USA Today

John Grisham, the impresario of legal thrillers, has written another novel without a lawyer in it.

His last book, "A Painted House," was a bittersweet, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story. "Skipping Christmas," out this week, is less ambitious, a pleasant if packaged piece of holiday entertainment.

Its unlikely hero, a buttoned-down tax accountant named Luther Krank, is no Ebenezer Scrooge, although he's had it with the commercial excesses of Christmas. After his daughter (his only child) leaves for Peru to serve in the Peace Corps, Krank convinces his wife to "skip" Christmas.

He envisions a more relaxing holiday: "No tree, no shopping, no meaningless gifts, no tipping, no clutter and wrappings, no traffic and crowds, no fruitcakes, no liquor and hams that no one needed, no 'Rudolph' and 'Frosty,' no office party, no wasted money."

Krank's objections are more financial than theological. He methodically calculates his family spent $6,100 on Christmas last year (all but $600 nondeductible). For half that, he and his wife can sail away on a 10-day Caribbean cruise.

Complications ensue, of course. Krank's Christmas boycott rankles his suburban neighbors, who blame him for their street's poor showing in the local decorations contest.

Merchants, such as the owner of The Pumpkin Seed, "a pompous little stationery store with a silly name and absurd prices," treat the Kranks as commercial traitors, as do others,

"Skipping Christmas" is a quick and easy read. The plot has all the ingredients of a made-for-TV movie. There's slapstick humor (a Charlie Chaplin-like scene on the roof), a small dose of pathos (a neighbor's cancer), gentle satire and enough of a twist to keep the pages turning.