The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog / Dave Barry
I'm a big fan of Dave Barry's work, so I had to read this new Christmas novella. It's set in 1960, in a little town in New York, and the narrator's name is Doug Barnes. Not surprisingly, it's pretty autobiographical, or at least it seems that way. There's no telling how much of the story really happened, although I think it's a safe bet that the bizarre climax didn't occur in real life. Anyone familiar with Barry's writing probably won't be expecting a nice, straightforward, linear narrative, so the lack of same won't be a surprise, either. What you get is an entertaining yarn that sort of sprawls around like real life, with all sorts of digressions and jumping back and forth in time. The main storyline concerns the Christmas pageant being put on at the church Doug and his family attend. Doug and a couple of his friends play shepherds; Doug's little brother and sister are angels. As for Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog, he plays an important part in the story, too. This reads a little like an updated version of a Jean Shepherd story (which is a good thing since Shepherd is one of my favorite authors). It's pretty lightweight compared to Shepherd's work, and my other complaint is that if you're going to go to the trouble to establish a specific year as your setting, you really need to get your pop culture references right, too. I know mistakes like that don't bother a lot of readers, but they annoy me. I'm willing to forgive them in such a good-hearted book as this one, though. This is good nostalgic fun with a few laugh-out-loud scenes.