The Christmas Pearl

( 98 )

Overview

Theodora is the matriarch of a family that has grown into a bunch of truculent knuckleheads. While she's finally gotten them all together in South Carolina to celebrate, this Christmas looks nothing like the extravagant, homey holidays of her childhood.

What happened to the days when Christmas meant tables groaning with home-cooked goodies, over-the-top decorations, and long chats in front of the fire with Pearl, her grandmother's beloved ...

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The Christmas Pearl

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Overview

Theodora is the matriarch of a family that has grown into a bunch of truculent knuckleheads. While she's finally gotten them all together in South Carolina to celebrate, this Christmas looks nothing like the extravagant, homey holidays of her childhood.

What happened to the days when Christmas meant tables groaning with home-cooked goodies, over-the-top decorations, and long chats in front of the fire with Pearl, her grandmother's beloved housekeeper and closest confidante?

Luckily for Theodora, a special someone who heard her plea for help arrives, with pockets full of enough Gullah magic and common sense to make Theodora's Christmas the love-filled miracle it's meant to be.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With her truculent family gathered at her stately Charleston mansion for Christmas, 93-year-old matriarch Theodora is having a hard time tolerating the lot of them. Theodora hankers for her 1920s childhood, when Pearl, the family's stern black maid, enforced strict houshold discipline and took no guff while working hard at Christmas, all the while singing gospel favorites such as "Come en Go wid Me." When Theodora's usual maid is called away, Pearl herself (as a ghost) blows in, ready to set the house in order, She unearths the antique crèche and other Christmas heirlooms long buried, and altering the family's general bad temper. Frank (The Land of Mango Sunsets) includes homegrown recipes that further sweeten this Lowcountry holiday confection. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Ninety-three-year old Theodora is lost in memories of past holidays when the housekeeper, Pearl, would overdecorate, overcook, and have long fireside chats with her. This year it's all slice-and-bake cookies, Internet gift certificates, and bickering families throwing insults. When Theodora is about to give up, the spirit of Pearl appears and smoothes over the holiday for all. This charming little book by the best-selling author (Land of Mango Sunsets) also includes holiday recipes. For most collections.


—Rebecca Vnuk
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061438448
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/23/2007
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 533,093
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dorothea Benton Frank

New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She divides her time between the New York area and the Lowcountry.

Biography

An author who has helped to put the South Carolina Lowcountry on the literary map, Dorothea Benton Frank hasn't always lived near the ocean, but the Sullivan's Island native has a powerful sense of connection to her birthplace. Even after marrying a New Yorker and settling in New Jersey, she returned to South Carolina regularly for visits, until her mother died and she and her siblings had to sell their family home. "It was very upsetting," she told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Suddenly, I couldn't come back and walk into my mother's house. I was grieving."

After her mother's death, writing down her memories of home was a private, therapeutic act for Frank. But as her stack of computer printouts grew, she began to try to shape them into a novel. Eventually a friend introduced her to the novelist Fern Michaels, who helped her polish her manuscript and find an agent for it.

Published in 2000, Frank's first "Lowcountry tale," Sullivan's Island made it to the New York Times bestseller list. Its quirky characters and tangled family relationships drew comparisons to the works of fellow southerners Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy (both of whom have provided blurbs for Frank's books). But while Conroy's novels are heavily angst-ridden, Frank sweetens her dysfunctional family tea with humor and a gabby, just-between-us-girls tone. To her way of thinking, there's a gap between serious literary fiction and standard beach-blanket fare that needs to be filled.

"I don't always want to read serious fiction," Frank explained to The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "But when I read fiction that's not serious, I don't want to read brain candy. Entertain me, for God's sake." Since her debut, she has faithfully followed her own advice, entertaining thousands of readers with books Pat Conroy calls "hilarious and wise" and characters Booklist describes as "sassy and smart,."

These days, Frank has a house of her own on Sullivan's Island, where she spends part of each year. "The first thing I do when I get there is take a walk on the beach," she admits. Evidently, this transplanted Lowcountry gal is staying in touch with her soul.

Good To Know

Before she started writing, Frank worked as a fashion buyer in New York City. She is also a nationally recognized volunteer fundraiser for the arts and education, and an advocate of literacy programs and women's issues.

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Read an Excerpt

The Christmas Pearl


By Dorothea Frank

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Dorothea Frank
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061438448

Chapter One

December Twenty-Third

When I was a young girl, the glorious celebrations of the Christmas season were a very different affair than they are today. Of course, I am as old as Methuselah. Ninety-three. When I got out of bed this morning, every bone in my body creaked like the loose boards in the front staircase of this ancient house. Can you even imagine what it would be like to have lived so many years? It was hard to believe that I had done it myself. But there it was. I was an old nanny goat at last. However, I much preferred to be thought of as a stylish dowager, the doyenne of Murray Boulevard, staving off her dotage. The fact was that if dotage and incapacitating decrepitude couldn't take me down in ninety-three years, I might squeak my way to Glory unscathed. Hallelujah! Another blessing!

My, my! The world has certainly changed, although many other, more important things have remained the same. After all, as Charlestonians, we are the self-appointed guardians of all traditions worthy of preservation. For example, it was 2006, I was still living in my family's home, as my mother and grandmother had done. Probably my great-grandmother before them, too. My memory is a little bit fuzzy about that. Regardless,the point is, I never left. Why would I?

Unfortunately, our home has become a little threadbare. Everything from the plaster to the plumbing could use some attention. It was not that my offspring or their offspring couldn't gather the resources to correct the creaks and leaks; it was that no one seemed to be worried about how this state of dilapidation looked to outsiders. What kind of Charlestonian no longer cared about appearances? Apathetic slackers, I'm afraid to say. It made me sick in my heart. The house deserved better.

Like any classic Southern stately home, ours has massive white Corinthian columns strung along the front portico. The foundation and the portico flooring is handmade brick, as is most of the entire house. My parents loved wrought-iron work so much that they added lots of detail—handrails, a balcony, and so forth.

Each generation—that is, until now—added some distinction to the house and grounds. I was the one who commissioned the gates forged by Charleston's greatest blacksmith, Phillip Simmons, himself! Yes, it's true. I will never forget the day he came with his men to install them on the sidewall of the house. They are superb, like black iron lace, with delicate snowy egrets set in ovals in the center of each side. He brought with him a small plaque bearing his name—P. SIMMONS. He asked me if I thought it was all right to affix it to the bottom. I said, you go right ahead, Mr. Simmons, because you are truly an artist! So he did.

In the yard are sprawling magnolia and live oak trees dripping with great sheers of Spanish moss. In the rear gardens are azalea and camellia bushes that are as old as Noah's house cat. Most of the landscaping is original to the house, except for the few things we lost during hurricanes, disease, or because of hostile visitors, if you know what I mean. Naturally, we have fig ivy crawling up the front steps that grows so quickly it makes me wish I carried pruning shears in my purse. Truth? Everything needs pruning and a good coat of paint.

I couldn't dwell on it. What was I supposed to do about renovations and repairs when my life had come to a place where I was practically a guest in my own home? Not much, I'm afraid. In any case, I was determined to maintain a positive attitude.

I was preparing to celebrate Christmas with my darling daughter, Barbara, her family, and their spouses and children, who had all arrived for the holidays. To give you the family map, Barbara and her husband, Cleland, who are both in their early sixties, live here with me. Their grown children have children and live in their own homes in Atlanta and Charlotte. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I'm glad they do. Bless their hearts, they are a truculent bunch. Yes, they are, but I mean that in the nicest possible way.

It might interest you to know how the house retaliated against their presence. Every time my whole family gathers under this roof, the walls rattle, the chandeliers downstairs flicker, and every portrait goes crooked on its nail. You see, along with the living comes the dead. Yes, our house is very haunted. It certainly is. Or it is sinking. Or perhaps both. I was never quite certain which because Charleston, especially the tip of the peninsula where we live, was built on plough mud. However, I can see Fort Sumter from my bedroom window. Knowing all that the mighty fortress represented gives me ample strength to deal with them.

All I can do all day is cluck to myself. I am clucking for a good reason. This was supposed to be a time of great joy. Unfortunately, Barbara's family always does such a pitiful job of the production of our Christmas celebration that I wind up disheartened. In her defense, at her age Barbara can only do so much on her own and the rest of them are clueless. Sadly, no one else appears to see anything wrong with the ramshackle way things are thrown together. Truly, I don't mean to judge them so harshly, but somehow it seems to me that they have allowed the whole spirit of the season to erode into blatant commercialism. I could have told them plenty of ways to revive the beauty of the past. I have tried many times; however, who wants to listen to an old coot like me? I worry that it is too late. When I close my eyes for the last time, an entire library of instructions for genuinely rewarding living will go with me.



Continues...

Excerpted from The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Frank Copyright © 2007 by Dorothea Frank. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 98 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(40)

4 Star

(26)

3 Star

(17)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 98 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Delightful!

    What a delightful Christmas story!

    93 year old Theodora grew up in a happy home ( the home her and her children still live in) full of love, laughter and respect with great traditions every Christmas, but Theodora¿s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are the complete opposite and poor Theodora doesn¿t know how to fix it. While growing up Theodora¿s family had a housekeeper/cook/friend named Pearl who always made everything better Theodora wishes she could find another Pearl to fix her family but Pearl has been dead many years. But Christmas is a time for miracles and getting what you wish for; Christmas starts out awful for this family till a miracle named Pearl, working on getting her wings, swoops in to fix this family.

    This was a great story humorous and touching all about family and just what that means, also about miracles and believing in them. What was great was it was never preachy but just a great story. If only we all had a Pearl of our own to fix all the ills in our own family!

    If you are looking for a good Christmas story give this one a try!

    4 Stars

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Recommend for those with Charleston backgrounds.

    To be a sixth or seventh generation Charlestonian, I found that I was reliving so much of my past in another of Dorothea Benton Frank's books. Yes! no Christmas Tree went up in our house until as a child I was asleep on Christmas Eve. Dad and Mom always did it after they came home from midnight service. The Pearl in our home was Thelma, and in my grandparent's home downstairs, she was Dorothy. Wonderful memories. Yes! There were three generations living in the same house. Family, Family, Family, and all that goes with it.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    highly recommended

    Treat your self by reading this book. Great read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

    A very touching, sweet story that shows the magic of the Christmas/Holiday spirit.

    This story brings back the wonder of our childhood memories and what Christmas was like when we were young, as well as how we have all become much too cinical with the flash and dash of the holidays today. It helps us believe in the magic of the past and gives us hope of the future. <BR/><BR/>This story is told through the eyes of an old woman as she struggles with her brash and sometimes ungrateful family as she challenges them to remember what the spirit of Christmas could mean for them if they chose to believe it. The delightful character of "Pearl" makes you want to believe in angels while hoping that maybe there is one for each of us.<BR/>It is warm and wonderful and a perfect read for this time of year. As you rush from one "to-do" to the other, make time to pick up this book and take a breather. You won't regret it!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Cute story

    I always enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank's books. This one was short enough for me to start on the night before Christmas Eve and finish up the next morning. It was hard getting into the Christmas spirit this year, but reading this helped. I love the little lady in the story and her old friend/housekeeper, Pearl.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    readers will enjoy this fun holiday tale.

    Ninety-three years old Theodora still lives in her family home in Charleston just like her mother and grandmother did before her. Although the bones ache and the memory is not quite as keen as it once was, she still her faculties and wants to throw a Christmas gala for her family like the ones her mom used to host back in the 1920s. No one wants to attend, but none disappoint Theodora as the nonagenarian is the recognized family matriarch.-------------- Thus the disgruntled family invades Theodora¿s Charleston home, but the gala is not anything like what she remembers as the stores do the baking (pre-packaged fruitcake is heresy) and the decorations come in packages instead of the family making them. Even more significant is where is Pearl, her grandmother¿s long deceased housekeeper, to serve as a drill sergeant making the truculent attendees behave and sing carols while the servant sang gospels? This is Christmas so sometimes a bit of magic is needed, this time Gullah magic, occurs. The ghost of Pearl arrives to bring order to the chaotic troops and Theodora takes out family Yuletide heirlooms hoping to bring good cheer to this distempered group.--------------- THE CHRISTMAS PEARL is a lighthearted whimsical holiday family drama that fans of Dorothea Benton Frank¿s Lowcountry tales will appreciate. The novella stars an interesting elderly person who believes her family fails to understand what Christmas means and also wants nostalgically to catch a little of her past. With mouth watering recipes to round out the tale, readers will enjoy this fun holiday tale.------------ Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    Harriet klausner

    Once again we have harriet klausner with her cliff note book report revealing the entire book, ruining it for other readers. Please bn, please get rid of this obnoxious poster and delete all her plot spoiling post....please! She ruins absolutely every book she so calls reviews.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    I have loved all of Dorothea Benton Franks books. I read this on

    I have loved all of Dorothea Benton Franks books. I read this one just days before Christmas to get myself into the holiday spirit. Ms. Frank never disappoints. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2012

    Touching story...

    ...reminds you that no matter what problems your family has, forgiveness can make things better.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2011

    Holiday Treat

    This is exactly the kind of story that sets the mood for the holidays. Easy to read, easy to remember, easy to come back to again next year!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    Times review said "little book" with receipes. How little

    Is this a novella or a long short? page count? Mom

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Loved it!!

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    Enchanting!!

    This is book #8 in Dorothea Benton Frank's repertoire. I read the 7 books that preceded this one; they were all fantastic, but this one had a unique sparkle to it....quite enchanting!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2010

    We're all getting there....

    The story is a coming of age story for the Senior plus group and how the world is seen through the eyes of the family's Grand Dame.Will the family survive as it was or will it collapse?It needs a miracle,an answer to a prayer.We all do from time to time.I hope that this is enough to get you started on a wonderful trip into this family's life and old Charleston traditions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2010

    Great Christmas Fun

    During the Christmas season I like to retreat from the cares of the world and enjoy the peace the season celebrates and this book is just the thing! I enjoyed escaping into this world where problems can be solved and faith triumphs disappointments.

    I saved this book to read again next Christmas.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    First book I've read by this author

    this was the first book I've read by this author - the author was recommended by an associate at B&N that this author writes for my age group - the story was good but a little slow starting - once I got past the first few chapters I didn't want to put it down - was not written just for my age group as the associate stated - I would definitely read another book by this author before making a call as to whether to buy more or not from them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2014

    APPRENTICE'S DEN

    PearlClan

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  • Posted April 15, 2014

    Not good

    Didn't like it at all

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 21, 2014

    Love Pearl

    What a great story to remind us what is important. It is all about family and how we treat each other and how we act.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 13, 2014

    Very Enjoyable

    Loved this book as it lifted my spirits when I was sitting by my sister's side as she is now in Hospice Care and not doing well. It kept my mind off of what is about to happen. It held my interest and I read some aloud to her.
    Interesting story.
    I would recommend this book to others.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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