Review by Claudia Schoonover
I was fortunate enough some years ago to help someone on the library’s reference desk who was searching our shelves for these stories. The patron explained to me that she read them every year around the holidays. I thought how special the stories must be for someone to make a point of reading them every year. I decided to read them myself three years ago, and I can honestly say reading Capote’s stories is one of the best gifts I’ve given myself. I don’t remember the patron who recommended them, but if I could, I would love to thank her for sharing her holiday tradition with me, which has now become one of mine.
Novelist and playwright Truman Streckfus Person was born in 1924 in New Orleans to a salesman and a 16-year-old beauty queen. His parents divorced when he was 4 years old, and he was then raised by relatives for a few years in Monroeville, Ala. His mother was remarried to a successful businessman, moved to New York, and Truman adopted his stepfather’s surname. Capote said some of his happiest memories are from his childhood in Alabama and with his beloved Aunt Sook.
This single volume gathers Capote’s three most beloved holiday stories, short memoirs and tributes that carry the “strong, delicious scent of holiday nostalgia.” When reading these short stories, I felt as if I were literally transported back to a time when life was simpler and to a place where people like my own grandparents lived their lives.
Capote is 7 years old in The Christmas Memory and shares an elaborate tale of he and his aunt and their holiday fruitcake-making adventures. One cannot keep from laughing out loud when they contact the local moonshiner about buying whisky for their cakes and, instead of taking their handfuls of saved pennies, he asks for “one of them cakes in exchange.” Another funny moment is when Capote and Sook are making their recipient list and include President and Mrs. Roosevelt. They muse about the possibility of their fruitcake being served at the White House Christmas dinner.
Thanksgiving Visitor is another delightful tale of the local bully being invited to Capote’s home for Thanksgiving and the drama that ensues. One Christmas is a more sobering tale of young Capote being forced to spend Christmas away from his beloved Sook and Alabama clan and instead travels to New York to visit the father he does not know. It’s a heartbreaking story with moments of humor infused throughout. These stories are among my very favorites, and I hope if you give them a chance, they will become part of your Christmas tradition, too.