By Heather O.
Let me say that I’m not a “Christmas Box” kinda fan. I’ll admit I haven’t read it, but something about these type of little books seems kitchy and annoying. Add to that Glenn Beck’s book, “The Christmas Sweater”, which has a tagline like, “Scarred deeply by the fateful events that transpired that day, Eddie begins a dark and painful journey toward manhood”, and the whole thing becomes gimmicky enough to make me want to vomit.
So when I received Jacob T. Marley for review, and saw that it was one of these miniature stocking stuffer books, my heart sank and I thought, I’m going to hate this.
Then we have a preface that ends with “Why did Scrooge get a final chance to change and not Jacob Marley?”
“Or did he?”
I read the first pages and thought, Oh dear, I am REALLY going to hate this.
I almost despaired completely when I got to the 4th page and read this part: “In fact, the greatest effect Jacob Thelonius Marley would have on this world would begin on Christmas Eve in the moments before he would leave his corpse behind and would stretch until…
Well, this is our story… ”
I have to say, first, I don’t like ellipses. I think they are lame and overly dramatic. Second, there was only put 3 dots, and my English teacher always taught me there are FOUR dots if nothing is coming after the ellipses, which means the 4th is a period, so I started obsessing about that, and I thought, Great, not only is this book going to be incredibly lame, they don’t even have a good copyeditor, which is going to make me nuts.
I was pleasantly surprised.
This is a solid little book. It’s a backstory to A Christmas Carol, a glimpse into the life of Ebenezer Scrooge through the eyes of his partner, Jacob Marley. I thought it was a fun premise, getting to see the same story from a different angle, and seeing a different backstory. I can’t remember how much we learn about Jacob’s life in the original, so I don’t know how much Bennett invented and how much he just expanded from Dickens, but it worked.
The writing is also very tight, the preface and intro notwithstanding. Actually, the preface and intro are different enough from the the style of the rest of the book that it made me wonder if they were written by the same person, or tagged on the end by an editor. I don’t know, but I enjoyed the language of the book very much. It’s not perfect, or perfectly consistent, but it’s solid. There are times when the author lifts directly from Dickens, quoting Scrooge and such (as Marley accompanies Scrooge, unseen, on his famous journey with 3 spirits), and it’s obvious when they are Dickens’ words and not Bennett’s. So, Dickens he is not. But that’s okay. I’m not a huge fan of Dickens, anyway.
I wondered if he was going to avoid the pitfalls of so many religious writers, the “Thus, verily we see” moment we get after the lesson has been learned. He doesn’t avoid it altogether, and the story is set up such that the moment is inevitable, but he doesn’t belabor it, which was nice. And it’s not overtly Mormon, either, keeping with Dickens’ premise and language of spirits. So while we get the “Thus, verily we see” moment, it’s not couched in syrupy Mormon language, which was also nice.
So if you are looking for a last minute stocking stuffer, and you live in Utah (I assume this is available at Deseret Book, although it’s published by Shadow Mountain), this is a nice option. It’s a quick little read, perfect for stretching out on the couch on a snowy Christmas afternoon (which we wouldn’t know anything about here, as it’s pushing 70 degrees and sunny. Seriously, what???).
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