Friday, December 21, 2007

Homespun Appeal


One book I feel confident recommending for Christmas reading is A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. It's not too Christmasty, and has a certain homespun quality I seem to crave.

At the book's beginning, we meet Oswald Campbell who is a down and out character living in a shabby Chicago hotel. His doctor has diagnosed emphysema and tells him he has few months left to live. Pulling up stakes on a whim, Oswald moves to Lost River, Alabama to die in peace. A recovering alcoholic, Oswald surprises himself and becomes a bird watcher and artist, reaching for pencils and paint brushes instead of booze. Formerly a curmudgeon who hates children (not that he's known any), he befriends a young girl named Patsy, who like Oswald, is an orphan. One more orphan stirred into this colorful mix is a wounded redbird named Jack who Patsy adores. Fannie Flagg's book Standing in the Rainbow is also a favorite of mine.

I recently learned that Flagg's real name is Patricia Neal. Because she was aiming for a career in show business where there was already an actress with that name, she felt she had to change it. During the 1960s, Flagg wrote and co-hosted Candid Camera, and during the 1970s she appeared on many game show panels. Because she was dyslexic, and even though she loved making up stories, she never thought she could become an author. Her first novel, published in 1981, was Coming Attractions: A Wonderful Novel, followed in 1987 by the unforgettable Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. She seems to me to be a born Southern storyteller.

Here are some more novels with homespun appeal:

End of the Road by Tom Bodett
Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner (basis for The Waltons tv show)
Lake Wobegon by Garrison Keillor
The Home Place by Wright Morris
Clover by Dori Sanders
Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White
The Train to Estelline by Jane Roberts Wood

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I'm a public librarian and a keeper of lists, primarily lists of books I hope to read some day. I will have to add Red Bird Christmas to that very long and growing list.