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Fiction Book Review: Christmas With Tucker by Greg Kincaid – Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie-Inspired
You know you’re in for an emotional read with any Hallmark-inspired story. Greg Kincaid continues the tradition with his new book, Christmas with Tuckerasked by the bestseller, A dog named Christmaswhich became a 2009 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, which established more than 12 million American viewers.
Sixty-something George McCray is expecting a Christmas visit from his mother at his Crossing Trails, Kansas dairy farm. She now suffers from memory loss. To facilitate her memory, he has collected the keys to McCray family memorabilia, including a dog named Tucker’s collar, his grandfather’s pewter cup and the last puzzle his father, John, gave to Grandma Cora.
Those items come to life, as George tells about the winter of 1962, while he waits for his mother’s arrival. It was then, at thirteen years old, George transitioned from a boy to a young man.
In June, George’s father died in a tractor accident on the farm, which shook the McCray family to its core. George lived with his parents, sisters Hannah and Trisha and grandfather Bo and grandmother Cora McCray.
In late summer, George’s mother and college-age sisters moved back to Minnesota to be near their parents. Everyone, including George, thought it best he stays on the farm until Christmas, helping run the McCray dairy farm; and adjust to life without his father.
Kincaid draws you deep into George’s young world; and describes the impact of a four-year-old Irish setter on his life.
Neighbor Frank Thorne asks the McCray family to take care of his unnamed dog while he serves time for drunken, disorderly behavior in the local jail. Learn how Tucker earns his name while staying with the McCrays.
At first, George is reluctant to befriend the dog, who he regularly sees from afar before getting on his school bus every morning; attached to a round chain. It doesn’t take long for the two to become inseparable, sharing a warm bed together during the bitterly cold nights in Kansas. Tucker is loyal to George because he often thinks about the loss of his father and the unfairness of life.
Middle America, simpler times prevail. Grandma Cora works quietly at the puzzle table. She constructs challenging puzzles that, until his death, her son, John, provided. Grandpa Bo drinks every day from the pewter cup that has been in the McCray family for generations. He also makes a leather collar; display of “Tucker McCray,” once, through a turn of events, George acquires ownership of the Irish setter.
Experience the realities of farm life. George gets up at 4:30 every day to help Grandpa Bo milk the cows before he goes to school. It is a generational chore that he inherited after his father’s previous death.
Sense also the affinity of cattle to walk on frozen pond water, which often results in death when the ice breaks and they cannot escape. Kincaid describes George’s frantic attempt to save the animals as he remains near frostbitten and bleeding, bare feet.
Cherokee County, Kansas is experiencing one of its worst winter storms days before Christmas. With snow-blocked roads, many residents are left to fend for themselves. Grandpa Bo decides it’s time to teach George how to operate the mammoth machine called a maintainer (today’s grader), to help clear the roads. “My grandfather gave me a new book of rules for adults, so that I could learn the childish primer that had so failed me that year. and care for others.”
Christmas spirit refers to George, given his father’s death and ambivalent feelings about returning to Minnesota to live with his mother: “Christmas, I didn’t seem to be good this year. How could it be if you were thirteen years old and knew, just knew you wouldn’t get what you wanted?”
Christmas with Tucker culminates with a city-wide celebration of the season, not unlike It’s a wonderful life. Invest time over the holidays and read Kincaid’s short, 180-page story, sure to enhance your Christmas season.
Author Greg Kincaid lives on a farm in Kansas; and is a pet adoption advocate. To find adoptable pets near you, visit http://www.petfinder.com.
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