Distler offers a sequel to Dickens’ famous Christmas story.
The latest from Distler (Tabor: The First Christian, 2017, etc.) begins just where A Christmas Carol leaves off: Ebenezer Scrooge, his heart transformed by the visitations of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come, has pledged to his former downtrodden clerk, Bob Cratchit, that he’s a changed man. He gives Cratchit a guinea and promises that his wages will be enormously increased henceforth, the news of which elicits disbelief from Cratchit’s wife (“Things like this don’t happen to people like us,” she tells him). And more importantly, he swears that he will help Cratchit’s sickly son, Tiny Tim, to be well again, specifically by consulting with the best doctor in London and a French specialist. During the key operation, while Tiny Tim is under ether, the boy appears to die. When he revives moments later, he’s had a vision: He meets a woman named Mary, who tells him the holiday of Christmas is under siege back on Earth, and the tension on the subject is increased when the Reverend Potts both attacks Christmas as a pagan practice of the Old World and excommunicates the whole Cratchit family for accepting the help of medical science in curing Tiny Tim. Distler writes all of this in a warm, inviting narrative voice that skillfully captures all of Dickens’ characters (and, in time, Dickens himself). The combination of short, one-scene chapters and some lean storytelling makes the book a quick, enjoyable reading experience (unlike a great deal of Dickens pastiche fiction), and new characters like reformed street urchin “Chancy” help to make this old familiar story feel new. Distler has a light, natural hand for Dickensian plot twists; the book stays involving right up to its predictable but surprisingly moving final pages.
A welcoming, consistently interesting exploration of the world of A Christmas Carol.