Name of Book: A Christmas Memory
Author: Truman Capote
Illustrator: Beth Peck
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Audience: Ages 10 and up
Summary: Buddy is deposited in the care of a miscellaneous assortment of relatives to be raised and finds love and friendship as he experiences his early years of life. This particular story is an autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote’s boyhood memories dating back to the 1930s in rural Alabama with his beloved distant cousin, Miss Sook, as she guides him through Christmas traditions that incorporate gifts of the earth and of the heart.
Literary elements at work in the story: Simplicity, innocence, and love are woven into a story where vivid descriptions and a wonderful sense of humor endear the reader to the characters and plot. “It’s fruitcake weather!” exclaims Miss Sook and there is work to be done, shopping lists and purchases, and all sorts of Christmas fixings to be made. Miss Sook instigates the Christmas preparations as she tells Buddy to get the buggy so they can pick pecans, gather a Christmas tree and trimmings, make fruitcakes, create homemade ornaments and gifts, and most importantly she gives generously her love, time, and promise of lifelong friendship. Buddy fills a void in Miss Sook’s life as he shares his adventures, comforts her after she is reprimanded sternly by family members, and returns a love for her wrapped in all the tenderness of childhood. A story that tugs at the kite strings of the reader’s heart as we share in a treasured memory and a beautiful gift of love.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic ability: This story offers a simpler look at Christmas in a previous time but also broadens a vision of how we experience family. Buddy is abandoned by his parents and left in the care of relatives to be raised during difficult times. It seems rather unlikely that a 60ish childlike cousin who has never married would be a good candidate for parenthood but Miss Sook shines like a star. Yes, she has a parenting mistake or two but she models unconditional love for Buddy and an authentic kindness for others. The other relatives in the household are critical of Miss Sook and Buddy’s rearing and seem to make cameo appearances to read them the riot act, scold, or make token gestures. The story prompts questions of what constitutes family and who invests time and love to the fabric of our own relationships and memories.
Theological Conversation Partners: God shows up in the strangest places and this boyhood memory illustrates a perfect example. Miss Soot gifts Buddy with a priceless gift of love as she pads his childhood with loving memories of Christmas traditions, experiences, laughter, and love framed in the humanness of this world. The words of John 3:16 resonate in this story as we reflect on God’s greatest gift of love that is shared with the world and just maybe Miss Soot is doing her very level best to give her love to Buddy as a gift because she has a profound sense of God’s gift and is bursting to share it with this young boy. John 3:16.
Faith Talk Questions:
- How would you describe the relationship of Buddy and Miss Sook?
- What types of things did they do together? Do you think they enjoyed each other and being together?
- Why do you think Miss Sook had Buddy help her with the fruitcakes?
- Do you have a Miss Sook in your life or someone who resembles Miss Sook in some aspect? If so, describe that person and your relationship.
- Christ is never mentioned in the Christmas traditions that Miss Sook and Buddy engage in as they prepare and celebrate Christmas. Do you think Christ is present? How?
- If you were to write a story about a Christmas memory, what would you share?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Alice Blanton.
A Christmas Memory by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.