Skipping Christmas

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Skipping Christmas
First edition
Author John Grisham
Illustrator Andrew Davidson
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
November 2001
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 198 pages
ISBN 0-385-50583-3
OCLC 54083800
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3557.R5355 S58 2001

Skipping Christmas is a comedy novel by John Grisham. It was published by Doubleday on November 6, 2001 and reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list on December 9.[1]

The book was adapted for the 2004 film Christmas with the Kranks by screenwriter Chris Columbus and recorded by actor Dennis Boutsikaris and released as a 4-CD audiobook by the Random House Audio Publishing Group in October 2006.[2]


The story focuses on how Luther and Nora Krank try to avoid the frenzy traditionally experienced during the Christmas holiday. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the two take their daughter Blair to the airport, where she departs for a year-long assignment in a remote area of Peru with the Peace Corps. Nora bemoans the fact that the upcoming Christmas will be the first time they have been separated as a family, prompting her husband to calculate how much they spent celebrating the holidays the previous year. When he realises they have little to show for the $6,100 they invested in decorations, gifts, and entertaining, he decides to skip all the hubbub at home and surprise Nora by booking a ten-day Caribbean Cruise aboard the Island Princess. Nora at first is sceptical but accepts the idea on one condition - that they still give a donation to the church and Children's Hospital of $600. At first Luther refuses, but when she refuses to consider the cruise otherwise, he agrees and they begin to plan the trip.

It doesn't take long for Nora to adjust to the idea of no Christmas shopping, no Christmas tree, and not throwing the Christmas Eve party they host every year. To the couple's amazement, their neighbors on Hemlock Street strongly object to their decision to boycott the holiday, because their decision not to decorate their home will jeopardise their winning the coveted prize for best decorated block in the neighborhood. Vic Frohmeyer, the unelected 'top man' of the neighborhood, leads the townspeople in taunting Luther and Nora about Christmas celebrations by extending a perimeter of people around their lawn, asking a group of Christmas carolers to sing carols on the Kranks' lawn, calling repeatedly to demand that they decorate their house for Christmas, and picketing with signs, et cetera. Luther stops the protest by freezing his sidewalk to prevent the carolers from singing there. After all this fails, the charities also are upset with the couple; the local Boy Scout troop is dismayed when the Kranks refuse to support them by purchasing a tree, the police are angered when they decline to buy a calendar, the fruitcake salesmen are shocked to find that they will not be buying a fruitcake this year, and the stationer is upset when he loses their annual order of engraved greeting cards. A newspaper even gets in the act by asking Luther's #1 rival, Walt Scheel, to film the Kranks' house for the story. Luther and Nora find themselves the objects of derision and anxiously await their departure on Christmas Day.

Without warning, Blair calls on Christmas Eve to tell them she's at Miami International Airport, en route home with her Peruvian fiancé as a surprise for her parents. She's anxious to introduce Enrique to her family's holiday traditions, and when she asks if they're having their usual party that night, a panicking Nora says yes, much to Luther's dismay. Comic chaos ensues as the two find themselves trying to decorate the house and coordinate a party with mere hours to spare before their daughter's and future son-in-law's arrival. Because the Boy Scouts have sold out of Christmas trees, Luther arranges to borrow the tree of a neighbor who is leaving for the holidays. He and Vic Frohmeyer's son Spike try to transport it across the street, but the neighbors notice and think that Luther is stealing the family's Christmas tree and they phone the police, resulting in Luther barely escaping arrest. Luther attempts to set up a Frosty the Snowman decoration on his roof, but fails and after a series of events ends up hanging by his leg; Scheel reluctantly calls 9-1-1 for Luther who is rescued from the roof. The Kranks then admit their dilemma and are rescued by everyone they've alienated, with the neighbours pulling together and providing the Christmas celebration Blair is expecting. Blair calls before the party can be started saying she has arrived. After successfully keeping Blair and her fiance busy so the party can get started, Luther decides to celebrate Christmas. He then gives the cruise package to Walt Scheel who is having a very bad Christmas because his wife has an illness which has a 90% chance of being terminal.

Critical reception[edit]

Publishers Weekly observed, "For all its clever curmudgeonly edge and minor charms, no way does this Christmas yarn from Grisham rank with A Christmas Carol, as the publisher claims. Nor does it rank with Grisham's own best work. The premise is terrific, as you'd expect from Grisham . . . But as clever as this setup is, its elaboration is ho-hum. There's a good reason why nearly all classic Christmas tales rely on an element of fantasy, for, literarily at least, Christmas is a time of miracles. Grisham sticks to the mundane, however, and his story lacks magic for that . . . The misanthropy in this short novel makes a good antidote to the more cloying Christmas tales, and the book is fun to read. To compare it to Dickens, however, is...humbug." [3]

Bruce Fretts of Entertainment Weekly graded the book C+ and commented, "Even at 177 minipages, Skipping Christmas feels padded . . . Despite a few nicely observed details . . . Grisham mostly trades in stale fruitcake jokes and sub–Christmas Vacation slapstick. Like his recent coming-of-age novel, A Painted House, Skipping represents a departure for the king of the legal thrillers, but in this case, it's to an unworthy destination." [4]