If most of the Christmas books are too saccharine for your taste, try On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts. Roberts' holiday story is more fun than anything else I've read this season.
Although the story involves a whole group of women, the Stitch 'N Bitch knitting club, it focuses on two couples, Bob and Joy Robertson, and Glen and Laura Fredericks. The women have opposite problems at holiday time. Joy adores the holidays, but her husband, Bob, lacks the Christmas spirit. He's a mystery writer who was an only child, and he'd rather just be left alone with Joy. In the Fredericks household, Glen is a big, kindhearted teddy bear who invites everyone and his brother over to party, with little thought of all of the work his wife has to do. It's Joy's disappointment with her husband that sets off an interesting chain of events in the small town of Holly. One comment that she should go on strike for Christmas, and let Bob do everything, sets the Stitch 'N Bitch group in motion. Suddenly, the strike's on, and Joy can't back down.
What happens in a small town when the men are in control of Christmas? Can they handle the Christmas cookies, shopping, pageants, and cards? On Strike for Christmas shows how events can snowball. Suddenly, the newspaper is covering the events, and townspeople are pitted against each other.
Roberts creates an interesting contrast in the Fredericks and Robertson households. She doesn't succeed quite as well with two other members of the knitting group, Carol, a widow who yearns to have the Christmas the other women are giving up, and Jerri, who has cancer. They were necessary as contrast, but their roles weren't as important to the story. They seemed to be used to show the more serious side of the holidays, when this wasn't a serious book. Even so, the minor characters all serve to show the involvement of the community in the women's Christmas strike.
Roberts adds the characters' holiday recipes for a festive note. They're appetizing recipes that entice the reader to try a few.
If John Grisham's Skipping Christmas was your favorite holiday book one year, Sheila Roberts' novel is even better. Only people who love each other could have managed to survive that holiday in Holly. This fun book is filled with holiday spirit and warmth. On Strike for Christmas will leave you smiling for the holidays.
On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts. St. Martin's Griffin, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-312-37022-0 (paperback), 339p.
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