Release Date: October 25, 2011
Snow is falling all across Minnesota as Mr. & Mrs. James Sparrow awaken in their modest Minneapolis apartment. She adores Christmas; he loathes it. Even nauseated, suffering from a stomach bug, she yearns to see The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol while he yearns only to fly to Hawaii and escape the joyless joy, the relentless marketing, and that dreadful pa-rum-pum-pum-pum song on the radio. An urgent phone call from his cousin sends James flying off to his hometown of Looseleaf, North Dakota, into a heavy blizzard. As he hunkers down in an ice house to weather the storm, stranded among his loony relatives, he is visited by a parade of figures who deliver him an epiphany worthy of the season, just in time to receive Mrs. Sparrow’s wonderful Christmas gift.
Listeners of Keillor’s weekly radio show may be surprised, and even slightly disappointed, by his latest literary work. A Christmas Blizzard is not a warm, fuzzy tale about the citizens of Lake Wobegon trapped in the basement of the Lutheran Church following the Christmas potluck.
This tale follows James Sparrow as he leaves the stress of his job, his wife and the holiday season behind and rushes to be with his much adored Uncle Earl who is said to be lingering at death’s door. He finds himself in Looseleaf, North Dakota, which appears to be just slightly north of absolutely nothing.
He is met at the airport to find that the claims of his uncle’s impending death have been exaggerated and the area is quickly being closed in by a blizzard. His one-day visit to his dying uncle has now become a visit with his extended (and crazy) family, with no end in sight.
A Christmas Blizzard is much like Keillor’s live show- slightly sweet, acerbic at times, and more mature and worldly than Powdermilk Biscuits.
My verdict: Read it! It is impossible to read this book without hearing the narration in Keillor’s rich, mellifluous voice. Take your time and enjoy this sometimes surreal journey into Christmas with family. If you linger, you will surely find a paragraph that speaks to you. Here’s mine…
The red throw on the old green sofa was straight, the copies of North Dakota Geographic were neatly stacked, the fish tank bubbled away, the goldfish manuevered through the plastic vegetation, and the carpet where Uncle Earl liked to strew his books was clear–the books were lined up on the bookcase, a sure sign that the occupant of the house was no longer in charge.