It’s only on the title page of The Christmas Sweater that you’ll learn that Glenn Beck enlisted the help of two co-authors in the writing of his book. I don’t know just how much each of the three writers contributed, but I have a guess: though the book is uniformly plain throughout, there are segments that feel like little more than a glorified movie of the week, and others that produce some decently composed examples of subtlety, imagery, and thematic development.
The narrator’s running interior dialogue favors crediting himself with unlikely, convenient leaps in self-understanding and psychological perception; at times I half expected him to become aware that he’s a fictional character being manipulated by an author. However, one specific character trait rings true each time it’s used, and done so with increasingly frustrating realism: his conscious decisions to shut people out and embrace the cold comforts of anger and self pity. We’ve all been there, and it’s a dark place, one from which we do need to decide to be rescued.
That is The Christmas Sweater‘s strong point: ultimately, it’s a sermon about letting God into your life to help you find joy amidst life’s nearly-crushing sorrows. Though most of the story reads like a preteen’s coming-of-age after school special, the climax is surprisingly effective: the protagonist confronts the dark world “of his own making” in a very real way. That scene is genuinely harrowing, and his path through it (not around it, through it, with God’s help), makes the whole thing worthwhile. It’s a satisfying illustration of the power of the Atonement in our lives, and isn’t shy about telling readers as much up front.
Last week a popular evangelical Christian web site removed an interview with Beck about the book because of complaints that, as a Mormon, Beck shouldn’t receive any warm quarter from “real” Christians. Though this would be a perfect opportunity to vent my incensed spleen as a Latter-day Saint myself, the protesters, if they want to keep the mainstream gene pool unpolluted by Mormon toxins, might do well to avoid The Christmas Sweater. Continue reading