Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

This is my favorite Christmas book, second only to Charles Dickens' immortal classic A Christmas Carol. It is what I call a "smile through your tears book," a story about how one little redbird changed so many lives.

The story begins when a middle-aged man, Mr. Oswald T. Campbell, is given a very grim prognosis by his doctor. Due to the condition of his lungs he is urged to leave Chicago immediately, another winter there will surely kill him His doctor recommends a quiet, humid little town in Alabama called Lost River.

The rather quirky but very friendly residents of Lost River extend Mr.Campbell the warmest of welcome. Expecting to die, Mr. Campbell is surprised when he gets a new lease on life. He takes up birdwatching, then begins to do watercolors of the local birdlife, and he begins to gain weight, his color improves, and he coughs less, and has no desire for either cigarettes or alcohol, spending the money on art supplies instead.

Another new arrival also finds a place in Lost River's heart. Patsy, a tiny, blonde, crippled girl, abused and neglected by her trailer trash parents, limps into town every day to visit Jack, the town's local celebrity, a tame redbird, a Cardinal, who lives at the grocery store.Frances Cleverdon, a middle-aged widow who always longed for a child, adopts Patsy since her family does not want her, to them she is just another mouth to feed and more trouble than she is worth because of her condition, and when it becomes imperative that the little girl have an operation the whole town goes full swing into fund raising.

As the story progresses there is sadness, but there is also a day after Christmas miracle that tugged at this reader's heart and made her smile through her tears. Tabby also enjoyed it, and, having just finished it before she went to bed, no doubt visions of redbirds instead of sugarplums are dancing in her head. She certainly snaps her jaws at them whenever she sees them out the window. Since I first read this wonderful, sentimental story I always said if I ever had a child I would make reading this book a Christmas tradition, so I read it to Tabby each year.

There are also some delicious made from scratch Southern style recipes in the back for things like macaroni and cheese and gingerbread with lemon sauce.

If you are looking for a heart-warming, old-fashioned bittersweet,sentimental Christmas story, Ms. Flagg's A Redbird Christmas has it all.

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