Book Review for “A Christmas Story” by Jean Shepherd

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Merry Christmas Eve to all of you! I hope that whatever your plans are for today or tomorrow that it involves time with your loved ones and good food. I wanted to do a Christmas-y post today so I decided to review a book that I’ve been curious about for a long time, A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd. I LOVE the movie by the same name and it’s holiday tradition to watch it every year. The movie is based off this collection of short stories. I’ll give you the synopsis and then my thoughts.

Synopsis

The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa—or anyone else—to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?

The pieces that comprise A Christmas Story, previously published in the larger collections In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, coalesce in a magical fashion to become an irresistible piece of Americana, quite the equal of the film in its ability to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.

My Thoughts

I loved this book just as much as I do the movie and I think that’s in part to it having the same tone. In both the book and the movie we have the narrator recalling events as an adult from his childhood. It’s written in a wordy and eloquent way that manages to be hilarious and keep your attention. The book doesn’t necessarily add anything crucial to the overall story but there is more detail and additional stories that make it worth reading. Of course, the movie changed around small details. In the book, for example, it’s not a Christmas turkey stolen by the Bumpus hounds but an Easter ham. However, other than small details like that the movie is actually very true to the book. If you’re a lover of this holiday classic movie, I highly recommend you read the book.

I’m going to show you an example of the writing style of the book so you can see if it’s something you would enjoy reading and you can see how similar it is to the narration of the movie.

“Closer and closer we crept. My mother and father had stashed us in line and disappeared. We were alone. Nothing stood between us and our confessor, our benefactor, our patron saint, our dispenser of BB guns, but 297 other beseechers at the throne. I have always felt that later generations of tots, products of less romantic upbringing, cynical nonbelievers in Santa Claus from birth, can never know the nature of the true dream. I was well into my twenties before I finally gave up on the Easter bunny, and I am not convinced that I am the richer for it. Even now there are times when I’m not so sure about the stork” (22).”

If you’re looking for a good Christmas read I really don’t think you’ll regret choosing this one. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for reading and have a great day!

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