Roy MacGregor's Valley Christmas.
The old man has his glove off and is offering to shake. The politician instintively reaches for the offered hand, and the old man grips Tommy's soft hand so tightly, a blister breaks. Soon there will be calluses. The Honourable Member for Qu'Appelle-Gumbo smiles through the pain.This collection of ten short stories by Ottawa Citizen columnist Roy MacGregor is an uneven and often sentimental look at Christmas. Proceeds from the sale of this collection go to the Ottawa Citizen Literacy Foundation.
The ten stories vary wildly in both style and quality. From an honest look at a naive white do-gooder living in a northern Native community to the sickly sweet story of a family gathering around the old wood stove; from an insightful and painful look at a man with Alzheimer's Disease celebrating his last Christmas at home to a manipulative and grossly sentimental story of a man who falls asleep in a snowdrift and is rescued by his memories and his mother's ghost.
Unfortunately, where some of the mawkishness of these stories could have been offset by a sure and fluid style, MacGregor's writing throughout is sloppy. He goes for the obvious in metaphor: a family that made its money "touching up" old photographs - "the good old days, painted better than they ever looked" - becomes a metaphor for people waxing sentimental about the past, which MacGregor does throughout the book.
MacGregor repeatedly uses the same metaphors and similes, referring to "fat flakes" of snow in nearly every story. It seems that these stories have been chosen from many years of newspaper columns and not carefully edited as a collection.
I would recommend this book as a gift for a magazine (not book)-loving relative with a sentimental bent. I would not, however, suggest it for the library shelf. While I admire the author's and publisher's generosity in donating the proceeds of its sales to a literacy fund, I cannot recommend it to read.
Alice Reimer is a highschool English teacher in Steinbach, Manitoba.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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