From the former president, seasonal reminiscences recalling Christmases past, with tempered nostalgia and beguiling frankness.
Most of the territory is familiar from Carter’s previous memoirs (An Hour Before Daylight, 2001, etc.), but by highlighting the observances of a particular season in places that range from his Georgia hometown to Camp David, Carter infuses them with a fresh sensibility. He begins in the 1930s, when as a young boy he would go out into the woods with his father Earl a few days before Christmas and bring home the perfect red cedar to decorate. As he and his father searched for the tree, they also gathered sedge to make brooms as gifts for family members. Decorations were homemade; gifts were clothes (dreaded) and books (much more welcome); celebrations were rounded off with a fireworks display. Sensitive as usual to the conditions of African-Americans at the time, Carter recalls how his black neighbors celebrated. The local church was the center of their festivities on Christmas Day, the pine tree growing outside was decorated with small presents, and the children had to give recitations before they received their gifts. Family has always been important to the author; even when president, he and Rosalyn managed to get back to Plains for the day itself. As he recalls past Christmases, Carter also briefly sketches the appropriate background: his years at the Naval Academy, his marriage, and his decision to go into politics. He describes Christmases in the Navy (one on a submarine mistakenly reported to have gone down in bad weather near Pearl Harbor), during his terms as governor in the newly decorated mansion in Atlanta, and at the White House. Events in Iran increasingly shadowed the holiday as he worked until the last moments of his presidency to set the hostages free.
Vintage Carter, with his always-welcome emphasis on family, place, and the way it really was. Perfect for gift-giving.