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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
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In Beck's debut novel, the conservative radio and TV host (An Inconvenient Book) makes a weak attempt at a holiday classic in the vein of It's a Wonderful Life. Despite his single mother's financial hardships, 12-year-old Eddie is certain this Christmas he will receive his much-desired Huffy bike. To his dismay, what he finds under the tree is "a stupid, handmade, ugly sweater" that his mother carefully modeled after those she can't afford at Sears (one of four places she keeps part-time jobs). Eddie tosses the sweater and insults his mother before the two go visit his grandparents at their farmouse. On the drive home, though, Eddie's exhausted mother falls asleep at the wheel and crashes, dying instantly. Sent to live with his grandparents, an increasingly bitter and angry Eddie lashes out at his accommodating guardians, engages in typical teenage angst and grapples with belief in God. For all his focus on traditional family virtues like respect, love and forgiveness, Beck's lightweight parable cruises on predictability, repetition and sentimentality.
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Reflections on the greatest gifts of all
Though he's no stranger to the bestseller list, TV and radio personality Glenn Beck ventures into new territory with his latest book, The Christmas Sweater, a heart-wrenching holiday story drawn from a painful episode in his boyhood.
Beck's two previous books, including the New York Times #1 bestseller, An Inconvenient Book, deal with the political and social issues he explores on his radio talk show and during his two-year prime-time stint on CNN's Headline News. (The conservative host is moving to the Fox News Channel early next year.)
Beck's new book follows the anguished journey of 13-year-old Eddie, who is bitterly disappointed with his mother's handcrafted gift. When his mother is killed in a car accident shortly after Christmas, Eddie is forced to re-evaluate his life and priorities. Though the tale is presented as fiction, Beck, whose mother died when he was 13, acknowledges that the story was drawn directly from his own life. BookPage recently asked the author to reflect on his holiday traditions and plans.
What was the best holiday gift you received as a child?
The best gift I ever got was the sweater my mom made for me shortly before she died. I didn't know it was the best gift at the timein fact I hated it. I wanted something cool like the other kids got. I tossed it in the corner of the room and left it in a crumpled mess. Looking back, I realized that the sweater was all my mom could give and that she worked really hard to make it for me. To me it's a reminder of how much she loved me.
Did you have a favorite holiday book when you were young?
My favorite books as a child were magic books. Yeah, yeahI didn't have a lot of friends. But the worst part is I wasn't even really good at magic either. Aspiring magician with no talent for magicnot a recipe for coolness.
What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
Of course I like to give out the books I have authoredbut aside from those I'm the guy that people dread getting books frombecause I give them the tough stuff. America Alone by Mark Steyn, The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes and The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. Sure, they may take a couple of months to readbut when they are finally done they will have a really firm understanding about what is going on in the worldand how we can avoid repeating the mistakes of our past.
What are you reading now?
At the moment I'm reading Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. If I ever had another career it would be in teaching (scary to many, I'm sure) because I feel that slowly but surely our nation's history is being carefully edited to fit an agenda. I don't want to let my children grow up getting an education that's left out key parts of our nation's history, so I'm reading as much about history and education as I possibly can.
What books are you planning to give as gifts?
I'll probably buy people books from some of my favorite fiction authorsTed Bell, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Daniel Silva and others like them. I feel many of these authors are taking real news events and intertwining them with fictionand that's the best kind of entertainment. You can learn about what is going on in the world yet be completely entertained at the same time.
What would you like to get from Santa this year?
Actually, I'm very blessedthere's nothing I really need. For me, Christmas is a time to be with family and also volunteering out in the community and helping those who are less fortunate. That's the best gift I could ever getthe feeling that comes when you've helped someone you have never met, that lonely person in need. Nothing compares to helping someone else. No gift could ever feel better. Well, a 100-inch plasma would come pretty close.