A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.
About the Author: John Grisham is the author of A Painted House, The Brethren, The Testament, The Street Lawyer, The Partner, The Runaway Jury, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Firm, and A Time to Kill.
About the Author
Hometown:Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia
Date of Birth:February 8, 1955
Place of Birth:Jonesboro, Arkansas
Education:B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981
Read an Excerpt
The gate was packed with weary travelers, most of them standing and huddled along the walls because the meager allotment of plastic chairs had long since been taken. Every plane that came and went held at least eighty passengers, yet the gate had seats for only a few dozen.
There seemed to be a thousand waiting for the 7 p.m. flight to Miami. They were bundled up and heavily laden, and after fighting the traffic and the check-in and the mobs along the concourse they were subdued, as a whole. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest days of the year for air travel, and as they jostled and got pushed farther into the gate many asked themselves, not for the first time, why, exactly, they had chosen this day to fly.
The reasons were varied and irrelevant at the moment. Some tried to smile. Some tried to read, but the crush and the noise made it difficult. Others just stared at the floor and waited. Nearby a skinny black Santa Claus clanged an irksome bell and droned out holiday greetings.
A small family approached, and when they saw the gate number and the mob they stopped along the edge of the concourse and began their wait. The daughter was young and pretty. Her name was Blair, and she was obviously leaving. Her parents were not. The three gazed at the crowd, and they, too, at that moment, silently asked themselves why they had picked this day to travel.
The tears were over, at least most of them. Blair was twenty-three, fresh from graduate school with a handsome resume but not ready for a career. A friend from college was in Africa with the Peace Corps, and this had inspired Blair to dedicate the next two years to helping others. Herassignment was eastern Peru, where she would teach primitive little children how to read. She would live in a lean-to with no plumbing, no electricity, no phone, and she was anxious to begin her journey.
The flight would take her to Miami, then to Lima, then by bus for three days into the mountains, into another century. For the first time in her young and sheltered life, Blair would spend Christmas away from home. Her mother clutched her hand and tried to be strong.
The good-byes had all been said. "Are you sure this is what you want?" had been asked for the hundredth time.
Luther, her father, studied the mob with a scowl on his face. What madness, he said to himself. He had dropped them at the curb, then driven miles to park in a satellite lot. A packed shuttle bus had delivered him back to Departures, and from there he had elbowed his way with his wife and daughter down to this gate. He was sad that Blair was leaving, and he detested the swarming horde of people. He was in a foul mood. Things would get worse for Luther.
The harried gate agents came to life and the passengers inched forward. The first announcement was made, the one asking those who needed extra time and those in first class to come forward. The pushing and shoving rose to the next level.
"I guess we'd better go," Luther said to his daughter, his only child.
They hugged again and fought back the tears. Blair smiled and said, "The year will fly by. I'll be home next Christmas."
Nora, her mother, bit her lip and nodded and kissed her once more. "Please be careful," she said because she couldn't stop saying it.
"I'll be fine."
They released her and watched helplessly as she joined a long line and inched away, away from them, away from home and security and everything she'd ever known. As she handed over her boarding pass, Blair turned and smiled at them one last time.
"Oh well," Luther said. "Enough of this. She's going to be fine."
Nora could think of nothing to say as she watched her daughter disappear. They turned and fell in with the foot traffic, one long crowded march down the concourse, past the Santa Claus with the irksome bell, past the tiny shops packed with people.
It was raining when they left the terminal and found the line for the shuttle back to the satellite, and it was pouring when the shuttle sloshed its way through the lot and dropped them off, two hundred yards from their car. It cost Luther $7.00 to free himself and his car from the greed of the airport authority.
When they were moving toward the city, Nora finally spoke. "Will she be okay?" she asked. He had heard that question so often that his response was an automatic grunt.
"Do you really think so?"
"Sure." Whether he did or he didn't, what did it matter at this point? She was gone; they couldn't stop her.
He gripped the wheel with both hands and silently cursed the traffic slowing in front of him. He couldn't tell if his wife was crying or not. Luther wanted only to get home and dry off, sit by the fire, and read a magazine.
He was within two miles of home when she announced, "I need a few things from the grocery."
"It's raining," he said.
"I still need them."
"Can't it wait?"
"You can stay in the car. Just take a minute. Go to Chip's. It's open today."
So he headed for Chip's, a place he despised not only for its outrageous prices and snooty staff but also for its impossible location. It was still raining of course--she couldn't pick a Kroger where you could park and make a dash. No, she wanted Chip's, where you parked and hiked.
Only sometimes you couldn't park at all. The lot was full. The fire lanes were packed. He searched in vain for ten minutes before Nora said, "Just drop me at the curb." She was frustrated at his inability to find a suitable spot.
He wheeled into a space near a burger joint and demanded, "Give me a list."
"I'll go," she said, but only in feigned protest. Luther would hike through the rain and they both knew it.
"Gimme a list."
"Just white chocolate and a pound of pistachios," she said, relieved.
"Yes, and make sure it's Logan's chocolate, one-pound bar, and Lance Brothers pistachios."
"And this couldn't wait?"
"No, Luther, it cannot wait. I'm doing dessert for lunch tomorrow. If you don't want to go, then hush up and I'll go."
He slammed the door. His third step was into a shallow pothole. Cold water soaked his right ankle and oozed down quickly into his shoe. He froze for a second and caught his breath, then stepped away on his toes, trying desperately to spot other puddles while dodging traffic.
Chip's believed in high prices and modest rent. It was on a side alley, not visible from anywhere really. Next to it was a wine shop run by a European of some strain who claimed to be French but was rumored to be Hungarian. His English was awful but he'd learned the language of price gouging. Probably learned it from Chip's next door. In fact all the shops in the District, as it was known, strove to be discriminating.
And every shop was full. Another Santa clanged away with the same bell outside the cheese shop. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" rattled from a hidden speaker above the sidewalk in front of Mother Earth, where the crunchy people were no doubt still wearing their sandals. Luther hated the store--refused to set foot inside. Nora bought organic herbs there, for what reason he'd never been certain. The old Mexican who owned the cigar store was happily stringing lights in his window, pipe stuck in the corner of his mouth, smoke drifting behind him, fake snow already sprayed on a fake tree.
There was a chance of real snow later in the night. The shoppers wasted no time as they hustled in and out of the stores. The sock on Luther's right foot was now frozen to his ankle.
There were no shopping baskets near the checkout at Chip's, and of course this was a bad sign. Luther didn't need one, but it meant the place was packed. The aisles were narrow and the inventory was laid out in such a way that nothing made sense. Regardless of what was on your list, you had to crisscross the place half a dozen times to finish up.
A stock boy was working hard on a display of Christmas chocolates. A sign by the butcher demanded that all good customers order their Christmas turkeys immediately. New Christmas wines were in! And Christmas hams!
What a waste, Luther thought to himself. Why do we eat so much and drink so much in the celebration of the birth of Christ? He found the pistachios near the bread. Odd how that made sense at Chip's. The white chocolate was nowhere near the baking section, so Luther cursed under his breath and trudged along the aisles, looking at everything. He got bumped by a shopping cart. No apology, no one noticed. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" was coming from above, as if Luther was supposed to be comforted. Might as well be "Frosty the Snowman."
Two aisles over, next to a selection of rice from around the world, there was a shelf of baking chocolates. As he stepped closer, he recognized a one-pound bar of Logan's. Another step closer and it suddenly disappeared, snatched from his grasp by a harsh-looking woman who never saw him. The little space reserved for Logan's was empty, and in the next desperate moment Luther saw not another speck of white chocolate. Lots of dark and medium chips and such, but nothing white.
The express line was, of course, slower than the other two. Chip's' outrageous prices forced its customers to buy in small quantities, but this had no effect whatsoever on the speed with which they came and went. Each item was lifted, inspected, and manually entered into the register by an unpleasant cashier. Sacking was hit or miss, though around Christmas the sackers came to life with smiles and enthusiasm and astounding recall of customers' names. It was the tipping season, yet another unseemly aspect of Christmas that Luther loathed.
Six bucks and change for a pound of pistachios. He shoved the eager young sacker away, and for a second thought he might have to strike him to keep his precious pistachios out of another bag. He stuffed them into the pocket of his overcoat and quickly left the store.
A crowd had stopped to watch the old Mexican decorate his cigar store window. He was plugging in little robots who trudged through the fake snow, and this delighted the crowd no end. Luther was forced to move off the curb, and in doing so he stepped just left instead of just right. His left foot sank into five inches of cold slush. He froze for a split second, sucking in lungfuls of cold air, cursing the old Mexican and his robots and his fans and the damned pistachios. He yanked his foot upward and slung dirty water on his pants leg, and standing at the curb with two frozen feet and the bell clanging away and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" blaring from the loudspeaker and the sidewalk blocked by revelers, Luther began to hate Christmas.
The water had seeped into his toes by the time he reached his car. "No white chocolate," he hissed at Nora as he crawled behind the wheel.
She was wiping her eyes.
"What is it now?" he demanded.
"I just talked to Blair."
"What? How? Is she all right?"
"She called from the airplane. She's fine." Nora was biting her lip, trying to recover.
Exactly how much does it cost to phone home from thirty thousand feet? Luther wondered. He'd seen phones on planes. Any credit card'll do. Blair had one he'd given her, the type where the bills are sent to Mom and Dad. From a cell phone up there to a cell phone down here, probably at least ten bucks.
And for what? I'm fine, Mom. Haven't seen you in almost an hour. We all love each other. We'll all miss each other. Gotta go, Mom.
The engine was running though Luther didn't remember starting it.
"You forgot the white chocolate?" Nora asked, fully recovered.
"No. I didn't forget it. They didn't have any."
"Did you ask Rex?"
"No, Nora, for some reason I didn't think to ask the butcher if he had any white chocolate hidden among his chops and livers."
She yanked the door handle with all the frustration she could muster. "I have to have it. Thanks for nothing." And she was gone.
I hope you step in frozen water, Luther grumbled to himself. He fumed and muttered other unpleasantries. He switched the heater vents to the floorboard to thaw his feet, then watched the large people come and go at the burger place. Traffic was stalled on the streets beyond.
How nice it would be to avoid Christmas, he began to think. A snap of the fingers and it's January 2. No tree, no shopping, no meaningless gifts, no tipping, no clutter and wrappings, no traffic and crowds, no fruitcakes, no liquor and hams that no one needed, no "Rudolph" and "Frosty, " no office party, no wasted money. His list grew long. He huddled over the wheel, smiling now, waiting for heat down below, dreaming pleasantly of escape.
She was back, with a small brown sack which she tossed beside him just carefully enough not to crack the chocolate while letting him know that she'd found it and he hadn't. "Everybody knows you have to ask," she said sharply as she yanked at her shoulder harness.
"Odd way of marketing," Luther mused, in reverse now. "Hide it by the butcher, make it scarce, folks'll clamor for it. I'm sure they charge more if it's hidden."
"Oh hush, Luther."
"Are your feet wet?"
"Then why'd you ask?"
"Do you think she'll be all right?"
"She's on an airplane. You just talked to her."
"I mean down there, in the jungle."
"Stop worrying, okay? The Peace Corps wouldn't send her into a dangerous place."
"It won't be the same."
It certainly will not, Luther almost said. Oddly, he was smiling as he worked his way through traffic.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book and the movie, Christmas with the Kranks! I would highly recommend both. The book is better than the normal hokey Christmas books and has several delightful twists and turns. My husband and I could truly relate. We have one child, a daughter. We have gone through the empty nest syndrome. We have had to adjust our holidays around different family scenarios through the years. One year, we made a decision to fly to Orlando before Thanksgiving and spent Thanksgiving day at Disney World! We felt the pangs of guilt being away from family and friends...even though it was very enjoyable being in Orlando in November and taking a cruise a week later. This is a great book! I have read almost all of John Grisham's books and appreciate this one even though it is totally different from his normal style of writing. Thank you for a treasure!
After celebrating Christmas for years with their daughter, Luther and Nora Krank decide a holiday change is what they ought to do while their offspring is serving in South America with the Peace Corps. Neither of the Kranks particularly enjoys the holidays due to crassness and the frenzies of late shopping amidst a horde. They agree to Skipping Christmas this year by going on ten day cruise with the money they didn't spend on the holiday. They ignore charities and their neighbors who insist the lights and Frosty must go up. This year, they will be dining on a luxury ship rather than hosting a gala as they have done for years. However, the Kranks are about to learn an American lesson when it comes to Skipping Christmas as plans of mice and bah humbugs often go astray in late December. This is a lighthearted entertaining reprint of John Grisham's satirizing a capitalist Christmas. The story line is fun, but not anywhere near the excitement of the author's legal thrillers. Still with a eggnog nod to It's A Wonderful Life, fans who enjoy a warm holiday stocking yarn will want to learn how hard it is to simply skip Christmas. Harriet Klausner
If you want to get away from the holiday rush and have a smile or two pick up John Grisham's newest book 'Skipping Christmas'. I loved it and had it read in no time at all. Happy hoidays to all.
This is the 3rd year I've read this book and I'm still not tired of it. Skipping Christmas is a light, quick read that always reaffirms my love for the holiday and reminds me not to take it too seriously. Now normally I don't read this book and come away with and moral questions about the meaning of Christmas and I'm still not doing that, but one question that does come to mind is, would a family who makes this decision really get ridiculed by their friends and neighbors this much? Now I live in the city, not the suburbs, and I'm almost positive that a family going on a cruise for Christmas would be envied not looked down upon. Maybe it's different in the suburbs or small towns. Maybe the neighbors there really would harasses and condemn someone wanting to take it easy a particular year. I hope that's not the case but I could easily see it happening. As much as I love the book I still haven't seen the movie version, Christmas With the Kranks, and probably will not any time soon. While I love Jaime Lee Curtis, Tim Allen is not one of my favorites and I tend to get annoyed when I see him on screen. There are a lot of you out there that love this movie though and I'm sure I would as well if someone else were in it.
Skipping Christmas is a fun little Christmas tale surrounding the Krank family and their attempts to forgo the holidays for a tropical cruise. After Thanksgiving, Luther and Nora Krank's only daughter joins the Peace Corp and is off to Peru for a year. The holidays just won't be the same without her. Luther, an accountant, sees that last Christmas they spent over $6,000 on the annual party, tree, gifts, cards and everything else that encompasses the Krank family Christmas. He and Nora decide to forgo everything related to the holiday and instead leave on Christmas day for a 10 day cruise in the tropics. If only it were that easy! The neighbors harass them to put up the decorations so the street can win the neighborhood Christmas contest. The Fire and Police Departments want to sell them their annual calenders and fruitcakes. Everybody is talking about them behind their backs and calling them Scrooges. Then on Christmas Eve, their daughter calls from Miami and is coming home for Christmas! The Kranks then have about 10 hours to figure out how to acquire a tree, string the lights, hang the decorations, get a turkey, plan a party and buy gifts. Mayhem, chaos and laughs ensue. Skipping Christmas is entertaining, amusing, and at times a little over the top. Although this book is silly and comical, the ending is truly heartwarming.
As a side note: Skipping Christmas was made into a movie called Christmas with the Kranks starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd.
WAS VERY FUNNY KEPT ME LAUGHING AND THINKING THE SAME THOUGHTS
The title of this book is Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. I recommend the book to the readers who like to read books based on holidays. Its a very well written book, Mr. Grisham gives the reader a sense of how hectic but also how joyful the Christmas season is. Characters in the book include Blair Krank, who is not a main character in the book, but changes the plot of the story dramatically from the beginning to when she makes another appearance in the end. Mr. Krank,who is Blair's father, he is a businessman who is fed up with the hectic routine of every Christmas. Mrs. Krank, who is Blair's mother, she is the tradition keeper of the family,she doesn't like all the hectic mess of Christmas but loves the parties, decorations, traditions and the family gatherings of Christmas. The setting of the book is Hemlock Street. The people of Hemlock loved the Christmas traditions. Every year the street of Hemlock would compete against other streets for the most decorated street. They did the same thing year after year of putting hundreds of lights up and an identical Frost the Snowman on every roof of the houses. No one had ever broken this tradition on Hemlock until the Kranks did. Blair who was in her early 20's had just graduated off of college, a friend of hers and joined the Peace Corps who was stationed in Peru. So, she wanted to join her friend there, so she took a flight to Peru, which left Mr. and Mrs. Krank in disbelief and tears. Days after Blair left, Mr. Krank ran into a travel agent who convinced Mr. Krank into leaving the Christmas tradition behing and take a boat trip to the Caribbeans. Mr. Krank then told his wife about his plan and soon after she was also convince, but would the rest of Hemlock agree with their decision. As the year got closer to Christmas Day, Mr. Krank got more in depth with his plan by getting tan sessions for him and his wife and saving money. Which meant no celebrating of Christmas whatsoever. No decorations, presents, Frosty, which added up to Hemlock not being able to win since not all the houses were decorated. This action fill Hemlock with confusion, especially from the neighborhood's most active resident, Vic Frohmeyer. He was the man behind the idea of Frosty and almost everything about Christmas on Hemlock. All the neighbors questioned the Kranks for their actions. Since Blair was gone, what was the point of celebrating Christmas, for this one year, it was all about Mr. and Mrs. Krank treating themselves. Christmas Eve came around and they were starting to pack for their trip when they got the most dramatic news. To find out the news they got you will have to read the book. You will not be disappointed if you read the book. It was a very good and truthful book about the traditions of Christmas.
Most of us can’t help avoiding the yearly Christmas frenzy. Although we dream about coming into the holiday season with calm serenity, invariably we are caught up in the endless sea of parties, Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, and decorating. What if our dreams for a quiet holiday actually became a reality? That’s what happens to Luther and Nora Krank. After sending their daughter, Blair, off to the Peace Corps, the couple realizes there is no longer the need to put on a big Christmas extravaganza! They refuse to put up a Christmas tree and theirs is the only house on Hemlock Street without a lighted plastic snowman precariously clinging to the front of their chimney. This year, there will be no Christmas Eve party at the Krank household, either. Even buying gifts is put on the back burner. In place of their typical Christmas traditions, Luther books a Caribbean cruise for his wife and himself. However, the Kranks’ plans suddenly go awry when Blair surprises her parents by returning to the states – and with a fiancé doctor in tow, too! Frantically, Nora Krank attempts to assemble a delicious Christmas dinner out of basically nothing and manages to come up with little better than smoked trout. Luther pleads with his neighbor to borrow their Christmas tree while they’re out of town and nearly slides off the roof attempting to wrestle the plastic Frosty onto his slippery roof. Nevertheless, the true Christmas spirit is revealed when Luther decides to donate the tickets for their Christmas cruise to his neighbor and wife, who is dying of cancer. Despite their differences, the Kranks’ neighbors ban together to help assemble a Christmas Blair will be proud of. We are a part of our traditions and they define us in a thousand tiny ways. In shedding them, we lose a little of ourselves. By celebrating and remembering them, however, we achieve everything we ever wanted.
My all time favorite book! So funny and I really connected since I have often wanted to skip Christmas myself. Grisham does take the traditions to the extreme but that only makes the book funnier! I never tire of reading it.....December or July!
Fun time and a good read. Nothing to strain your intellect.
I read this book and watch the movie version called "Christmas with the the Kranks" ever year right after Thanksgiving. This book gets me into the holiday spirit because it reminds me how important family is!
this book is a short book and easy reading...it is soooo funny and the author makes a good point about commercialism at christmas time. we, in our family, have joked many times about forgetting the traditional christmas and going skiing or something...again..this is a must read book..i enjoyed it thoroughly as i am a 'John Grisham' fan anyway.
A humorous story with a serious theme. Perfect to read during the time of holiday stress.
Love this book! Will have you laughing out loud!
Awesome read, never gets boring. One of the best christmas books I have ever put my hands on.
I read this book years ago and laughed all the way through it. I now read it with my kids. They think it is hillarious. What a great reminder of what is really important about Christmas.
Every Christmas season I try to read a Christmas novel of some sort. There are a lot of very heart wrenching stories out there...I pass those up. Christmas to me is a time of optimism, faith, love, thoughtfulness but also just plain fun. I read this novel by Mr. Grisham when it first came out and I loved it. It is just hilarious but it also has a very good sense of Christmas - love for family and thoughtfulness of others. I plan on reading it again soon. Please Mr. Grisham write another great story like this. You have a talent for it.
While reading this book I laughed out loud more then once. I laughed so hard at one point in the book I cried.
This is an excellent book. Similar to the movie but much better! I'm a slow reader and I was able to finish this in a day. Definitely addictive! So many "situations" to deal with. And you thought that planning a family get together was hard. Try going through what this family does! A must read!
Funny, fresh, easy to read, lighthearted, laughed from start to finish.
This was a great book by John Grisham. This book was very funny and worth reading. I'm not a big reader but this book kept my attention.
I read this book and fell in love with it. I am only 14 but I know a good book when I see one. I can also relate to this book because my father always talks about skippping christmas or doing Christmas a week later to avoid the high prices of things. This book is truely a work of art, that should be shared with people over the holidays, for a little laughs and the true spirit of Christmas. If you're looking for a little Christmas cheer to pass on, stop and try this book. I just know you'll fall in love with it too. Merry Christmas!
To me, the movie hardly did this book justice. Luckily, I read the book before I saw the movie and just fell in love with it. This is a good book if you need a good laugh :)
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham is a story of a family by the name of Krank. The holiday season was creeping on them quickly and Luther Krank was not looking forward to it. Their daughter was out of the states and Luther began to realize it was the perfect time to take a break from Christmas. No more crowded malls, long lines, stop and go traffic, or busy town centers. This Christmas would be spent in the Caribbean and Nora was quick to agree with the idea. Little did they know many surprises were in store. ¿No, Luther, it cannot wait. I¿m doing dessert for lunch tomorrow.¿ It is interesting to see how fed up Nora already is and it is only the beginning of December. `If you don¿t want to go, then hush up and I¿ll go.¿ This kind of stress and tension is what brought on the idea of skipping Christmas. Wouldn¿t life be easier and calmer? Skipping Christmas is a book with many emotions. It is an overpowering story of the importance and spirit of Christmas. So many connections can be made with our own lives with the hectic and busy schedules during the holiday season. It¿s as if we could just skip the whole thing. When we just are kidding ourselves by this though, Nora and Luther took it seriously, as some of us wish we could do. It changed forever the way they saw Christmas. I was very intrigued when I began this book. At first it was upsetting how unappreciative they were of the whole season. But those feelings were soon forgotten after the hilarity of the story. I found the details, especially the little things like when Luther is hanging upside down or when he steals the Christmas tree, to totally involve me in the story. I was completely satisfied with the ending and how amazingly touching the story was and how it really portrayed the meaning of Christmas.
I enjoyed reading this book I, it was nice and easy reading. This book made me ready for Christmas and can't wait for it to come. There were some humorous parts in the book that were entertaining. I would have to say the end of the book was my favorite part. The middle although I had though was just a little bit dragging with almost the same idea over again. I was needed but maybe he didn't need to have that much in there.