If you live in Arizona--maybe in other places, too, but certainly in Arizona, then you have seen this book around. The author, Tom Van Dyke, is from Cave Creek (which is just north of the Phoenix area, for those of you unfamiliar), and the book is a Western and we're in the West, and it's also a Christmas book and there are only so many Christmas books to push every year. So you tend to see this book in many places.
All the same, I knew very little about A Cowboy Christmas: An American Tale. Yet how do you really learn about a book other than by reading it?
The book is slim at about a hundred pages; the chapters don't run more than a few pages long, either. The perfect length for a quiet Christmastime read. Not that most of the book is necessarily "Christmasy." The Christmas scene is at the end. Most of the book follows a young man named WB on his journey into the West, where he encounters mining, gold, and cowboying--and a beautiful girl that he loses and never gives up searching for.
The scenes, being short, are also simple, as is the language. The style is straightforward rather than dense and that's where the poeticism lies. In WB's experiences, there are homages to the work that people have done in the West and to the heart that let it all, through the mess, endure. As you slide into the final chapters and get to the Christmas part, somehow the tone suddenly is a Christmas tone, even if there is nothing of snow or stockings or wreaths. Instead, there is warmth and companionship and gratefulness and hope.
What I appreciate about this book? Sometimes books like this, that rely on some kind of straightforward and poetic tone, are all about showing the "gritty and real" details that I don't even want to be reading about. This book shows real details, but not all of that. This book is sweet and honest, and that's what makes it a nice little Christmas tale.
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