Shena Mackay An Advent Calendar

ISBN 13: 9780099270782

An Advent Calendar

3.54 avg rating
( 13 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780099270782: An Advent Calendar

Like an advent calendar, this story opens mysterious doors on the bizarre lives of John Wood and his family who have moved into the decrepit North London house of an infirm uncle. All are facing Christmas with problems of poverty, impossible love and loneliness.

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From the Back Cover:

An Advent Calendar opens on the sights and sounds of an ambulance arriving at the scene after a man chops his finger off at a butcher shop. A hapless customer, John, who takes home an order of minced beef to his ailing Uncle Cecil, is overwhelmed with guilt and horror when the butcher arrives at his door looking for the missing finger. John, who is out of work, his wife Marguerite, and their two young children move in with Uncle Cecil and the adults struggle to find equilibrium and satisfaction in lives filled with longing and unfulfilled dreams. Marguerite has a brief affair, an escape from the seemingly relentless poverty and boredom of her life. Her lover, Aaron, arrives at her back door one night after everyone has gone to bed. Marguerite's young daughter, Emily, walks into the kitchen where they sit drinking and smoking. Uncle Cecil lives in squalor with a goat out back. John's sister, Elizabeth, a schoolteacher, befriends a troubled student, Joy, who is seduced while baby-sitting for a middle-aged poet. The story takes place during the twenty-four days of December that are depicted in dime-store advent calendars. It culminates at Christmas, not exactly with a Hollywood ending that rights all wrongs, but with redemption and absolution, as is sufficient unto the season.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A dark Christmas tale with intimations of light, this set in that unmerry old England where unemployment and squalor still distort lives, and things mostly get worse. Acclaimed English writer Mackay (Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags, 1994, etc.) excels at depicting characters struggling to survive amidst random disasters and sapping tedium. And her latest, a downbeat lead-up to precarious Christmas joy, typically focuses on life's losers and innocents. Here, unemployed (again) John, who has just seen a young man's finger cut off at the butcher shop, is way behind with the rent and must move his family in with Uncle Cecil. For John, the butcher shop accident becomes just another example of the wretchedness of a life that has never been easy since his Socialist parents devoted themselves more to the Party than to their family. Now, John buys an Advent calendar to ease the move, and as the 25 days pass until Christmas, he, wife Marguerite, sister Elizabeth, Uncle Cecil, and Elizabeth's pupil Joy suffer any number of setbacks. John finds a job with the Cleaning Boys, but soon loses it; then, still troubled by seeing the man lose his finger, he tries to help the victim but nearly gets beaten up. Meanwhile, Cecil's beloved goat gets ill; Margaret has an affair with the veterinarian; Elizabeth worries about how she's to spend Christmas, and her plan to help 15-year-old Joy feel better about herself by getting her a part-time job goes awry. It also looks as if there won't be enough money for presents. But even the darkest lives have their brighter moments: Money is found for gifts, John's parents come through with a job offer, and Joy's self-esteem gets a boost. On Christmas Day, all celebrate happily, ``carousing on a sandbank in time, music and laughter drowning the sound of tomorrow's tide.'' A Christmas story without the mistletoe and the message, but no less moving. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Shena Mackay
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ISBN 10: 0099270781 ISBN 13: 9780099270782
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