A thoroughly unsentimental novel told from 10 different perspectives, all having at their center Beatrice (who renames herself “Christmas”), a 13-year-old dying of cancer.
Parker sets himself a difficult task here—telling the story of a young girl with cancer in a way that doesn’t try to wring a cheap emotional response from readers. What makes this easier is the character of Christmas herself, who is at times wise, opinionated, angry, recalcitrant, sarcastic, and mean. The narrative is told in fragments by 10 people who have come in contact with Christmas, often in extraordinarily brief encounters. The facts are simple: Christmas Danzig has recently been put in the care of her Aunt Nikki because her father, Otto, has died, and her “wide-eyed, dipshit, junkie mother” is unable to care for her. Far from being grateful, Christmas runs away and winds up encountering a variety of characters, some good-hearted and others merely eccentric. Parker is a master of tonal complexity, for these encounters can range from the hilarious to the poignant to the enigmatic, often within the same story. One of Christmas’ most moving encounters doesn’t even involve physically meeting another character but rather corresponding with Dorothy, a woman who’s started the Dear Dorothy blog about The Wizard of Oz. When Christmas posts that she wants to meet the woman behind the blog, a correspondence develops that opens Dorothy up emotionally—until she discovers that her boyfriend has been faking some of Christmas’ letters. In another story a woman named Evie feverishly prepares for GlitterFest, a subculture that gives meaning to her life, and only at the very end of the story does Christmas appear and express a desire to see the show. The final story, from the perspective of Aunt Nikki and written after Christmas’ death, provides a more thorough overview of Christmas’ life and of her effect, both good and bad, on others.
A complex, absorbing, and occasionally moving read.