Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seasonal Fare

The Last Noel
by Michael Malone

There are several things one could say to criticize this book. Far fetched? Yes. Schmaltzy? A little. Stereotypical characters? Some of them. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. I was looking for something kind of inspirational and Christmasy that I could just get lost in for a few days. This filled the bill. Some may remember that I blogged about Michael Malone's Handling Sin several months ago. To be fair, I have to say that The Last Noel is not a work of the caliber of Handling Sin. If you are looking at a book that moves you as deeply as Handling Sin, you will be disappointed.

Still, Malone's talent is evident, and I would bet that his goals for these two works were not the same. He has the power to create characters whom we come to care about and who show us a thing or two about ourselves. The premise of this novel - two friends who share a Christmas birthday and who have all these major life events happen on or around Christmas Day (weddings, deaths, etc.) does make the reader do a few eye rolls. Coincidence is one thing, but does anyone really believe that all these things would just happen to fall on Christmas? But once the reader decides to just go with it, it is an inspiring story in many ways. There are poignant moments that show us the difficulty of maintaining an interracial relationship in the 1960s and 70s. There is a strong message about the power of enduring friendship. Malone draws his characters in such a way that we can see their different facets - tragic flaws as well as instances of kindness and mercy (except for Noni's mother and brother - they are just bad eggs).

The Last Noel will not change the intellectual or social history of any person or place, but it's perfect for curling up by the Christmas tree and having a long winter's read.

Reverent Reader


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