As a young boy in 1962, George McCray is at a crossroads in his life. With his father's death in a tragic accident a few months earlier, everything George thought he knew about life was turned upside down. He now finds himself taking on many of his father's responsibilities on his grandparent's dairy farm, and struggling to make the difficult decision of whether to move to Minnesota with his mother after the Christmas holiday. When a big red Irish Setter comes into his life, it gives George a sense of purpose by having something to focus on besides his own problems, but he is constantly reminded that the dog he dubbed Tucker doesn't truly belong to him. Then one of the biggest blizzards in history hits his small rural community in Kansas. George's grandfather is charged with clearing the roads with his maintainer, but as the snow continues to fall, it proves to be too big of a job for one man. George must step up to the plate and take on a man's work while trying to figure out a way to keep the dog he's come to love in his life.
Christmas with Tucker is billed on the cover as a prequel to A Dog Named Christmas. While most of the events of the book take place long before A Dog Named Christmas, I still consider it to be the second in this untitled series. It begins with George McCray, the father and narrator of A Dog Named Christmas, reminiscing about Christmas 1962 which was a year that changed his life as a young boy. George is again the first-person narrator of this feel-good story about the importance of family, a boy's coming of age, and a boy's love for his dog. It is an inspiring tale about never giving up because you simply don't know what life might have in store for you.
At thirteen, young George finds himself at a crossroads in life. He's at that awkward stage between boyhood and manhood which is confusing enough as it is, but George has the added stress of dealing with the death of his father less than six months earlier. When his dad was killed in a farming accident, all the rules that George thought governed his life were broken, and now he feels helplessly adrift. George is also conflicted about leaving his grandparent's dairy farm, the only home he's ever known and one that he loves, to move with his mom to Minnesota to be near her family after the holidays. In addition to all this, George becomes quite attached to their neighbor's dog whom his grandfather brings home to care for temporarily when their neighbor gets into some trouble. George does a lot of growing up in the couple of months over that Christmas holiday. When a huge snowstorm hit, George really stepped up to the plate, working shifts to help his grandfather run the road maintainer (basically a snow plow), as well as taking on extra chores around the farm. When the power goes out he has to chop holes in the ice on the pond, so the cows can drink and milk them by hand too. It was definitely a man's job, but George really showed himself to be responsible. He was a very strong and smart kid. He so desperately wanted Tucker to be his dog and didn't think his neighbor Frank Thorne was a good dog owner, so he was quite tempted to take Frank up on an offer that would not have been good for Frank. Although George started out making the wrong choice in this situation, he took the time to think things over and in the end, made the right one. That wasn't the only time he had to make a mature decision, but each time, he did it with some careful thought which I found very admirable even though it was still from a kid's perspective.
Christmas with Tucker has a varied supporting cast, the most important of whom are George's grandparents, Bo and Cora. I remember George being a good father in A Dog Named Christmas, and he obviously learned from the best. His grandparents are very wise and loving, allowing George to learn from his own mistakes and guiding him with a gentle hand. At first glance, Frank Thorne doesn't seem like a very nice person, and at the beginning, he probably wasn't. As George learns and grows he begins to see a different side of Frank that he didn't initially. I really love the close-knit feel of this rural community and how they all pull together to help each other out when the big winter storm hits. They are completely reliant on the maintainer, because it's the only vehicle that can get through the snowed in roads. It was wonderful how they all happily shared whatever extras they might have with others until the roads could be cleared, and then when the ice storm hits not long before Christmas even the maintainer can't get through. In the end, it was George's persistence and his grandfather's ingenuity combined with the community's spirit that helped to "save" Christmas.
In Christmas with Tucker, Greg Kincaid has created yet another heartwarming Christmas story that was a good follow-up to A Dog Named Christmas as well as a great way to wrap up my holiday season's reading. The only reason I didn't give it the full five stars is that the first half or so of the book was a little slow for me. After the storms hit, things began to pick up a little and there were some exciting things happening to hold my attention better. Greg Kincaid is an author who is really in tune with animal natures. The prologue of the story written from Tucker's perspective was ingenious. Mr. Kincaid is also great with creating satisfying stories that are uplifting and poignant. I can see these two volumes becoming comfort reads at Christmastime or anytime. There is absolutely no objectionable content either, so Christmas with Tucker would be a great book to share with the family as a Christmas reading tradition.
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