Book review: 'Blizzard' is classic quirky Garrison Keillor

Published: Sunday, Nov. 29 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

"A CHRISTMAS BLIZZARD," by Garrison Keillor, Viking, 180 pages, $21.95 (f)

If you're someone who likes homespun tales that are big on personality and are spirited, then Garrison Keillor's novel "A Christmas Blizzard" may be for you.

Perhaps not destined to be a holiday classic, it's an entertaining romp nonetheless.

James Sparrow had everything a man could want: a beautiful wife, Joyce, an enormous fortune and a plush Chicago apartment with a butler to boot.

It's the Christmas season, and the Sparrows should be happy, but when the two awaken at odds over where to spend the holidays — James wants to go to their vacation home in Kuhikuhikapapa'u'maumau, Hawaii, and Joyce, sick with the flu, wants to stay in Chicago — it looks like there's no compromise in sight.

When James gets word Uncle Earl is dying, he drops everything to return to his hometown of Looseleaf, N.D. James hopes it will be just a short stop on his way to Hawaii, but a major blizzard conspires to keep him grounded.

Stuck in the place he dreamed of escaping as a child, James is forced to confront some old, dark memories and maybe, just possibly, adjust his negative attitude about family and the holidays.

Keilor, best known for his work on "A Prairie Home Companion," is an acquired taste. Either you like him or you don't.

And "A Christmas Blizzard" is classic Keillor, from the quirky characters to his trademark phrasing and prose, right on down to his incredibly wordy sentences that are so long that by the time you get to the end of them you have to go back to the beginning because you forgot what you were reading in the first place but are so in keeping with his writing style that fans won't mind in the least.

The pacing throughout may be a bit slow, and some parts are just plain random, but for the most part, "A Christmas Blizzard" is an enjoyable ride.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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