Dec 15, 09
Is there anybody better at creating time and place than Richard Peck? And his ability to create a voice for his narrator is unmatched. Apparently, critics are in agreement, as this book is winning starred reviews all over the place! "A Season of Gifts" is set in 1958 in a small mid-western town. Peck sets the scene with period details that put the reader right there with the characters.
Though the narrator, Bobby, tells the story of his family's arrival in the small town where his father has been called to minister in a failing church, the story is really Mrs. Dowdel's. Fans of Peck may remember her from "A Year Down Yonder" and "A Long Way from Chicago." All of the characters are carefully, clearly developed and so memorable! Bob's family - his sister Phyllis (in love with Elvis, rebellious, and bound for trouble), his sister Ruth Ann (a Mrs. Dowdel wanabee who is precocious and lovable), and his parents (patient, kind, and knowing)- are spot-on. The same holds true for the minor characters. Oh, but Mrs. Dowdel, she "takes the cake." She leads by example, is clever, creative, and kind in her own quiet way. Peck describes her in wonderful detail, as a twelve year old might perceive her, but in a way that the reader understands and knows more than Bob does. Mrs. Dowdel is the hero of this story - "We did some growing up wherever we were, but we grew up the most in that little podunk town when we lived next door to Mrs. Dowdel. She was no church woman, and she didn't neighbor, and Christmas was just another day to her. But she didn't wait for Christmas to give out her gifts. She gave too many. They wouldn't fit under the tree, not even the tallest blue spruce..."
This is a quiet story, as most of our lives really are. There is no page-turning action. This is a story you will want to take your time with and savor each and every detail. A wonderful, feel-good story!