A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory

4.6 20
by Truman Capote

View All Available Formats & Editions

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote's rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. We are proud to be reprinting this warm and delicately illustrated edition of A Christmas Memory--"a tiny gem of a holiday story" (School Library Journal, starred review). Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates…  See more details below


First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote's rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. We are proud to be reprinting this warm and delicately illustrated edition of A Christmas Memory--"a tiny gem of a holiday story" (School Library Journal, starred review). Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!" Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls--one young and one old--and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After 50 years, Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory (1956), illus. by Beth Peck, will likely still mesmerize readers. Capote's memoir of the Christmas he spent at age seven with an elderly lady, his only friend, now includes a CD of the book narrated by Celeste Holm. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Capote's story of the beautiful and loving relationship between an orphaned boy and an elderly woman is accompanied by fine illustrations that capture both the era and the warmth shared between them. Capote presents one autumn and winter as the two prepare the annual fruitcakes and make homemade gifts for one another. Capote's story was originally published in December 1956 in Mademoiselle magazine. It is a story whose message and language will be appreciated more by adults. The nostalgia and the sadness of the ending will not be for every child. However, for the special older child who is still lucky enough to enjoy listening to a parent or grandparent read, this will affect both deeply. This new edition includes a CD narrated by Celeste Holm whose superb reading adds just the right touch of a Southern accent and completes the fine package.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-- This tiny gem of a holiday story, although a memory, is told in the present tense, which gives it a certain immediacy. Written by Capote as if a backward glance at his childhood while in college, the story traces a month of pre-Christmas doings in his parentless, poor household. The seven-year-old and his ``friend,'' a distant, eccentric, and in those times elderly (mid-sixties), cousin prepare several dozen fruitcakes and mail them to people they admire. Gathering the pecans from those left behind in the harvest, buying illegally made whiskey for soaking the cakes, getting a little tipsy on the leftovers, cutting their own tree, and decorating it with homemade ornaments are some of the adventures the two share. The outside world barely intrudes on this portrayal of a loving friendship which wraps readers in coziness like the worn scrap quilt warms the old woman. Reminiscent of Lisbeth Zwerger, Peck's watercolor-and-ink full-page illustrations greatly enhance the text. Her use of lighter shades, tawny colors, and fine lines plus a background wash which suggests rather than delineates detail is perfect for this holiday memory of Christmas celebrated in rural Alabama in the early 1930s. --Susan Hepler, Arlington Public Library, VA

Read More

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable-not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "It's fruitcake weather!"

The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something. We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together--well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she was still a child. She is still a child.

"I knew it before I got out of bed," she says, turning away from the window with a purposeful excitement in her eyes. "The courthouse bell sounded so cold and clear. And there were no birds singing; they've gone to warmer country, yes indeed. Oh, Buddy, stop stuffing biscuit and fetch our buggy. Helpme find my hat. We've thirty cakes to bake."

It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat."

The hat is found, a straw cartwheel corsaged with velvet roses out-of-doors has faded: it once belonged to a more fashionable relative. Together, we guide our buggy, a dilapidated baby carriage, out to the garden and into a grove of pecan trees. The buggy is mine; that is, it was bought for me when I was born. It is made of wicker, rather unraveled, and the wheels wobble like a drunkard's legs. But it is a faithful object; springtimes, we take it to the woods and fill it with flowers, herbs, wild fern for our porch pots; in the summer, we pile it with picnic paraphernalia and sugar-cane fishing poles and roll it down to the edge of a creek; it has its winter uses, too: as a truck for hauling firewood from the yard to the kitchen, as a warm bed for Queenie, our tough little orange and white rat terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites. Queenie is trotting beside it now.

Three hours later we are back in the kitchen hulling a heaping buggyload of windfall pecans. Our backs hurt from gathering them: how hard they were to find (the main crop having been shaken off the trees and sold by the orchard's owners, who are not us) among the concealing leaves, the frosted, deceiving grass. Caarackle! A cheery crunch, scraps of miniature thunder sound as the shells collapse and the golden mound of sweet oily ivory meat mounts in the milkglass bowl. Queenie begs to taste, and now and again my friend sneaks her a mite, though insisting we deprive ourselves. "We mustn't, Buddy. If we start, we won't stop. And there's scarcely enough as there is. For thirty cakes." The kitchen is growing dark. Dusk turns the window into a mirror: our reflections mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight. At last, when the moon is quite high, we toss the final hull into the fire and, with joined sighs, watch it catch flame. The buggy is empty, the bowl is brimful.

We eat our supper (cold biscuits, bacon, blackberry jam) and discuss tomorrow. Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and oh, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings: why, we'll need a pony to pull the buggy home.

But before these purchases can be made, there is the question of money. Neither of us has any. Except for skinflint sums persons in the house occasionally provide (a dime is considered very big money); or what we earn ourselves from various activities: holding rummage sales, selling buckets of hand-picked blackberries, jars of homemade jam and apple jelly and peach preserves, rounding up flowers for funerals and weddings. Once we won seventy-ninth prize, five dollars, in a national football contest. Not that we know a fool thing about football. It's just that we enter any contest we hear about: at the moment our hopes are centered on the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize being offered to name a new brand of coffee (we suggested "A.M."; and, after some hesitation, for my friend thought it perhaps sacrilegious, the slogan "A.M.! Amen!"). To tell the truth, our only really profitable enterprise was the Fun and Freak Museum we conducted in a back-yard woodshed two summers ago. The Fun was a stereopticon with slide views of Washington and New York lent us by a relative who had been to those places (she was furious when she discovered why we'd borrowed it); the Freak was a three-legged biddy chicken hatched by one of our own hens. Everybody hereabouts wanted to see that biddy: we charged grownups a nickel, kids two cents. And took in a good twenty dollars before the museum shut down due to the decease of the main attraction.

But one way and another we do each year accumulate Christmas savings, a Fruitcake Fund. These moneys we keep hidden in an ancient bead purse under a loose board under the floor under a chamber pot under my friend's bed. The purse is seldom removed from this safe location except to make a deposit, or, as happens every Saturday, a withdrawal; for on Saturdays I am allowed ten cents to go to the picture show. My friend has never been to a picture show, nor does she intend to: "I'd rather hear you tell the story, Buddy. That way I can imagine it more. Besides, a person my age shouldn't squander their eyes. When the Lord comes, let me see him clear." In addition to never having seen a movie, she has never: eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home, received or sent a telegram, read anything except funny papers and the Bible, worn cosmetics, cursed, wished someone harm, told a lie on purpose, let a hungry dog go hungry. Here are a few things she has done, does do: killed with a hoe the biggest rattlesnake ever seen in this county (sixteen rattles), dip snuff (secretly), tame hummingbirds (just try it) till they balance on her finger, tell ghost stories (we both believe in ghosts) so tingling they chill you in July, talk to herself, take walks in the rain, grow the prettiest japonicas in town, know the recipe for every sort of old-time Indian cure, including a magical wart-remover.

Now, with supper finished, we retire to the room in a faraway part of the house where my friend sleeps in a scrap-quilt-covered iron bed painted rose pink, her favorite color. Silently, wallowing in the pleasures of conspiracy, we take the bead purse from its secret place and spill its contents on the scrap quilt. Dollar bills, tightly rolled and green as May buds. Somber fifty-cent pieces, heavy enough to weight a dead man's eyes. Lovely dimes, the liveliest coin, the one that really jingles. Nickels and quarters, worn smooth as creek pebbles. But mostly a hateful heap of bitter-odored pennies. Last summer others in the house contracted to pay us a penny for every twenty-five flies we killed. Oh, the carnage of August: the flies that flew to heaven! Yet it was not work in which we took pride. And, as we sit counting pennies, it is as though we were back tabulating dead flies. Neither of us had a head for figures; we count slowly, lose track, start again. According to her calculations, we have $12.73. According to mine, exactly $13. I do hope you're wrong, Buddy. We can't mess around with thirteen. The cakes will fall. Or put somebody in the cemetery. Why, I wouldn't dream of getting out of bed on the thirteenth." This is true: she always spends thirteenths in bed. So, to be on the safe side, we subtract a penny and toss it out the window.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

A Christmas Memory / One Christmas / The Thanksgiving Visitor 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
ellegeentea More than 1 year ago
The stories of holidays with the author and his elderly, distant cousin really touched my heart. They stayed with me for days. So delightful and well-written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Each Christmas for the last 5 or 6, I am taken back to a two hundred year old home in CT, where I first heard Sister Cassidy read aloud to us A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. To say read aloud is not quite right, for when you are surrounded by sepia toned pictures, large floral throws, sipping hot cocoa with goodies to munch, and the reader, who could be Sook herself and all ready has a lilt to her words, you know you are in for a delightful experience. Of course we all know that the best Christmas gifts are not in satin tied cellophane, for they are as Capote remembers, time spent with loved ones, memories of kite flying, and cousins like Sook, who may give you a 'dime wrapped in toilet paper.' Capote's story is a wonderful remembrance. Kristin Andersen
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this, quick read.
honeybunchspk More than 1 year ago
Very readable. Makes a good gift, or a nice addition to your own library.
liederlover More than 1 year ago
I own this book in another edition, and purchased this one as a gift. I like this particular edition because it includes the less-available 'One Christmas.' VERY evocative of the time period, the South, and childhood. Wonderful, timeless stories to be read over and over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had seen the video with Geraldine Page narriated by Truman Capote himself and to read this story is just as if the book comes to life. In my lifetime I like 'Buddy' have been so fortunate to meet and become aquainted with the 'relatives that people don't speak of at the family reunion.' This book though sad in nature is a very good look at a childs life in the rural south, when passed from relative to relative.
AnnieStopper More than 1 year ago
This book has become one of my favourites to read during the holiday season. Truman Capote is a captivating story teller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book was very fun and crazy espesially buddy(his best friend wicth is 60) I recommend this book for people that want a fun heart warming story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RSista More than 1 year ago
Good stories are good forever and these stories will be read and re-read--to children and grandchildren and even to each other while we make the dressing and stuff the bird.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. I loved this and all of Capote's work! This is truly a heart-warming book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Years ago i saw the tv special 'a christmas memory' and never forgot it, such a wonderful and heartwarming remembrance. Each Christmas thereafter i looked for it in vain on tv. Now i have the video and this book and every Christmas i look forward to reaquainting myself with this bittersweet tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the online class about Christmas Literature. I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and depth of Capote¿s touching story. Normally, I would have never thought of reading a Truman Capote book, memories of his appearance as a somewhat awkward and strange man on such 60¿s TV shows as ¿Laugh-In¿ clouded my judgment. This is worth a read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Quite a loving story!