It's December 20th, and poor gay Tad's love life is in a shambles. He's lost his teaching job at the tony Manhattan elementary school where he's staff storyteller, is about to be evicted from his apartment, and--my God!--he's 34, older than Christ! Humorist O'Donnell's fiction (Getting Over Homer, 1996, etc.) is usually well-received for its loopy, silly narrative verve. But at times, his style overblows every little waterfly that skims across his mind (""Tad needed to unwrap a fresh bar of soap in order to shower, and he squirmed at its sharp edges, like rubbing a wooden box against himself, as he lathered up under the spigot's impersonal torrent""). Here, a long round of Christmas parties and get-togethers sends Tad, Scrooge-like, through a dense life-review, including discussions about death (his friend Yoni says she'd like to die the traditional way, the ""during orgasm"" route). Along the way, there's a clutch of quite moving moments, as the odyssey culminates with most of his losses restored: Friends offer him sleeping space, and his school may take him back. Life is a lovely empty glass to be refilled--but not before a final leaning toward suicide in frigid Central Park. Will this be the first annual gay literary Christmas carol? Only Knopf can know for sure.