A Redbird Christmas

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Overview

With the same incomparable style and warm, inviting voice that have made her beloved by millions of readers far and wide, New York Times bestselling author Fannie Flagg has written an enchanting Christmas story of faith and hope for all ages that is sure to become a classic.
Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling ...

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A Redbird Christmas

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Overview

With the same incomparable style and warm, inviting voice that have made her beloved by millions of readers far and wide, New York Times bestselling author Fannie Flagg has written an enchanting Christmas story of faith and hope for all ages that is sure to become a classic.
Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling diagnosis from his doctor, Oswald T. Campbell leaves behind the cold and damp of the oncoming Chicago winter to spend what he believes will be his last Christmas in the warm and welcoming town of Lost River. There he meets the postman who delivers mail by boat, the store owner who nurses a broken heart, the ladies of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, who do clandestine good works. And he meets a little redbird named Jack, who is at the center of this tale of a magical Christmas when something so amazing happened that those who witnessed it have never forgotten it. Once you experience the wonder, you too will never forget A Redbird Christmas.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lured by a brochure his doctor gives him after informing him that his emphysema has left him with scarcely a year to live, 52-year-old Oswald T. Campbell abandons wintry Chicago for Lost River, Ala., where he believes he'll be spending his last Christmas. Bestselling author Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes; Standing in the Rainbow) makes this down-home story about good neighbors and the power of love sparkle with wit and humor, as she tells of Oswald's new life in a town with one grocery store and a resident cardinal (or redbird, as the natives call it). Frances Cleverdon, one of four widows and three single women in town, hopes to fix him up with her sister, Mildred-if only Mildred wouldn't keep dying her hair outrageous colors every few days. The quirky story takes a heartwarming turn when Frances and Oswald become involved in the life of Patsy Casey, an abandoned young girl with a crippled leg. As Christmas approaches, the townspeople and neighboring communities-even the Creoles, whose long-standing feud with everybody else keeps them on the other side of the river-rally round shy, sweet Patsy. Flagg is a gifted storyteller who knows how to tug at readers' heartstrings, winding up her satisfying holiday tale with the requisite Christmas miracle. Agent, Joni Evans. (Nov. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Flagg's latest work (after Standing in the Rainbow) is just the thing this holiday season for anyone who loves warm, cuddly, feel-good books. Much like Jan Karon's popular "Mitford" series, the story takes place in a small town full of interesting characters. But Lost River, AL, is even smaller, and the story is set sometime in the recent past. Oswald T. Campbell leaves snowy Chicago for Lost River either to regain his health or to spend his last few months in peace. Instead, he's welcomed into this tiny community with open arms and discovers not only his health but also love, acceptance, and a whole new life. Along with Oswald's cure are other examples of love's power. Despite some unfortunate stereotypes, Flagg's gentle humor and positive life view should make the book popular. The selected recipes will bring back fond memories for many; expect regional outbreaks of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.]-Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One more Christmas, one more chance. Diagnosed with terminal emphysema, Oswald T. Campbell leaves wintry Chicago for a friendly little town in Alabama recommended by his doctor. Lost River seems as good a place as any to spend his last Christmas on earth; and Oswald, a cheerful loser all his life, believes in going with the flow. Turns out that the people of Lost River are a colorful bunch: Roy Grimmit, the strapping owner of the grocery/bait/beer store, hand-feeds a rescued fledgling named Jack (the redbird of the title) and doesn't care who thinks he's a sissy. Many of the local women belong to the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots, which does good things on the sly, like fixing up unattached men. Betty Kitchen, former army nurse, coaxes Oswald's life story out of him. Seems he was an orphan named for a can of soup-could there be anything sadder? Oswald is quite taken with the charms of Frances Cleverdon, who has a fabulous collection of gravy boats and a pink kitchen, too. Back to Jack, the redbird: it's a favorite of Patsy, a crippled little girl abandoned by her worthless parents. She'll be heartbroken when she finds out that Jack died, so the townsfolk arrange for a minor miracle. Will they get it? Yes-and snow for Christmas, too. Charming tale, sweet as pie, with a just-right touch of tartness from the bestselling Flagg (Standing in the Rainbow, 2003, etc).
From the Publisher
Praise for Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

“Satisfying . . . [Flagg’s] faith in the healing power of small towns and family is refreshing.”
–People

“[Flagg] keeps it simple, she keeps it bright, she keeps it moving right along–and, most of all, she keeps it beloved.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“You’d have to be a stone to read Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! without laughing and crying.”
–The Christian Science Monitor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345480262
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/25/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

FANNIE FLAGG began writing and producing television specials at age nineteen and went on to distinguish herself as an actress and writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (which was produced by Universal Pictures as Fried Green Tomatoes), Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!, and Standing in the Rainbow. Flagg's script for Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for both the Academy and Writers Guild of America Awards and won the highly regarded Scripters Award. Flagg lives in California and in Alabama.

Biography

Quite early on in her writing career, Fannie Flagg stumbled onto the holy grail of secrets in the publishing world: what editors are actually good for.

Attending the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference in 1978 to see her idol, Eudora Welty, Flagg won first prize in the writing contest for a short story told from the perspective of a 11-year-old girl, spelling mistakes and all -- a literary device that she figured was ingenious because it disguised her own pitiful spelling, later determined to be an outgrowth of dyslexia. But when a Harper & Row editor approached her about expanding the story into a full-length novel, she realized the jig was up.

"I just burst into tears and said, 'I can't write a novel,'" she told The New York Times in 1994. "'I can't spell. I can't diagram a sentence.' He took my hand and said the most wonderful thing I've ever heard. He said, 'Oh, honey, what do you think editors are for?'"

And so Fannie Flagg -- television personality, Broadway star, film actress and six-time Miss Alabama contestant -- became a novelist, delving into the Southern-fried, small-town fiction of the sort populated by colorful characters with homespun, no-nonsense observations. Characters that are known to say things like, "That catfish was so big the photograph alone weighed 40 pounds."

Her first novel, an expanded take on that prize-winning short story, was Coming Attractions: A Wonderful Novel, the story of a spunky yet hapless girl growing up in the South, helping her alcoholic father run the local bijou. But it was with her second novel where it all came together. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café -- a novel, for all its light humor, that infuses its story with serious threads on racism, feminism, spousal abuse and hints at Sapphic love -- follows two pairs of women: a couple running a hometown café in the Depression-era South and an elderly nursing home resident in the late 1980s who strikes up an impromptu friendship with a middle-aged housewife unhappy with her life.

The result was not only a smash novel, but a hit movie as well, one that garnered Flagg an Academy Award nomination for adapting the screenplay. She won praise from the likes of Erma Bombeck, Harper Lee and idol Eudora Welty, and the Los Angeles Times critic compared it to The Last Picture Show. The The New York Times called it, simply, "a real novel and a good one."

Before her career as a novelist, Flagg was known principally for her on-screen television and film work. She was second banana to Allen Funt on the long-running Candid Camera, perhaps the trailblazer for the current crop of so-called reality television. (Her favorite segment, she told Entertainment Weekly in 1992, was driving a car through the wall of a drive-thru bank.) She appeared as the school nurse in the 1978 film version of Grease, and on Broadway in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And she was a staple of the Match Game television game shows in the '70s.

As a writer, though, this Birmingham, Alabama native found her voice as a chronicler of Southern Americana and life in its self-contained hamlets. "Fannie Flagg is the most shamelessly sentimental writer in America," The Christian Science Monitor wrote in a 1998 review of her third novel. "She's also the most entertaining. You'd have to be a stone to read Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! without laughing and crying. The cliches in this novel are deep-fat fried: not particularly nutritious, but entirely delicious."

The New York Times, also reviewing Baby Girl, took note of the spinning-yarns-on-the-front-porch quality to her work: "Even when she prattles -- and she prattles a great deal during this book -- you are always aware that a star is at work. She has that gift that certain people from the theater have, of never boring the audience. She keeps it simple, she keeps it bright, she keeps it moving right along -- and, most of all, she keeps it beloved."

But, lest she be pegged as simply a champion of the good ol’ days, it's worth noting that her writing can be something of a clarion call for social change. In Fried Green Tomatoes, Flagg comments not only on the racial divisions of the South but also on the minimization of women in both the 1930s and contemporary life. Just as Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison commit to a life together -- without menfolk -- in the Depression-era days of Whistle Stop, Alabama, middle-aged Evelyn Couch in modern-day Birmingham discovers the joys of working outside the home and defining her life outside meeting the every whim of her husband.

On top of her writing, Flagg has also stumped for the Equal Rights Amendment.

"I think it's time that women have to stand up and say we do not want to be seen in a demeaning manner," Flagg told a Premiere magazine reporter in an interview about the film adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Good To Know

Flagg approximated the length of her first novel by weight. Her editor told her a novel should be around 400 pages. "So I weighed 400 pages and it came to two pounds and something," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. " I wrote until I had two pounds and something, and, as it happened, the novel was just about done."

She landed the Candid Camera gig while a writer at a New York comedy club. When one of the performers couldn't go on, Flagg acted as understudy, and the show's host, Allen Funt, was in the audience.

Flagg went undiagnosed for years as a dyslexic until a viewer casually mentioned it to her in a fan letter.

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Read an Excerpt

The Windy City

It was only November sixth but Chicago had just been hit with its second big blizzard of the season, and Mr. Oswald T. Campbell guessed he had stepped in every ice-cold ankle-deep puddle of dirty white slush it was possible to step in, trying to get to his appointment. When he finally arrived, he had used up every cussword in his rather large vocabulary of cusswords, owed in part to his short stint in the army. He was greeted by the receptionist and handed a clipboard.

“We received all your medical records and insurance forms, Mr. Campbell, but Dr. Obecheck likes to have a short personal history of his new patients, so could you please fill this out for us?”

Oh, God, he thought, why do they always make you fill something out? But he nodded cordially and sat down and started.

Name: Oswald T. Campbell

Address: Hotel De Soto, 1428 Lennon Avenue, Chicago, IL

Sex: Male

Age: 52

Hair: Some . . . Red

Eyes: Blue

Height: Five feet eight

Weight: 161 pounds

Marital status: Divorced

Children: No, thank God.

Closest living relative: Ex-wife, Mrs. Helen Gwinn, 1457 Hope Street, Lake Forest, IL

Please list your complaints below:

The Cubs need a new second baseman.

There were many more questions to fill out, but he just left them blank, signed his name, and handed it back to the girl.

Later, after his examination was over, as he sat shivering in a freezing room wearing nothing but a backless thin gray cotton gown, a nurse told him to get dressed; the doctor would meet him back in his office. Not only was he chilled to the bone and sore from just having been probed and prodded in many rude places, but now, to make matters worse, when he tried to put his shoes and socks back on they were still ice cold and sopping wet. He tried to wring the excess water out of his socks and managed to drip dye all over the floor. It was then he noticed that the dye from his socks had stained his feet a nice dark blue. “Oh, great!” he muttered to himself. He threw the socks in the trash basket and squished down the hall in cold wet leather shoes.

As he sat in the office waiting, he was bored and uncomfortable. There was nothing to read and he couldn’t smoke because he had lied to the doctor and told him he had given it up. He wiggled his toes, trying to get them warm, and glanced around the room. Everywhere he looked was gray. It was gray outside the office window and gray inside the office. Would it kill them to paint the walls a different color? The last time he had been at the VA hospital, a woman had come in and given a talk on how colors affect the mood. What idiot would pick gray? He hated going to doctors anyway, but his insurance company required him to have a physical once a year so some new bozo could tell him what he already knew. The doctor he had just seen was at least friendly and had laughed at a few of his jokes, but now he just wished the guy would hurry up. Most of the doctors they sent him to were old and ready to retire or just starting out and in need of guinea pigs to practice on. This one was old. Seventy or more, he guessed. Maybe that’s why he was taking so long. Gray walls, gray rug, gray gown, gray doctor.

Finally, the door opened and the doctor came in with his test results. Oswald said, “So, Doc, will I be able to run in the Boston Marathon again this year?”

This time the doctor ignored Oswald’s attempt to be humorous and sat down at his desk, looking rather somber.

“Mr. Campbell,” he said, “I’m not too happy about what I have to tell you. I usually like to have a family member present at a time like this. I see you have listed your ex-wife as immediate family. Would you like to call and see if she can come in?”

Oswald suddenly stopped wiggling his toes and paid attention. “No, that’s all right. Is there a problem?”

“I’m afraid so,” he said, as he opened his folder. “I’ve checked and rechecked your charts and records. I even called in another associate from down the hall, a pulmonary specialist, to consult, but unfortunately he agreed with my diagnosis. Mr. Campbell, I’m going to tell it to you straight. In your present condition you won’t live through another Chicago winter. You need to get out of here to a milder climate as soon as possible, because if you don’t—well, frankly, I’m not sure I would give you till Christmas.”

“Huh?” Oswald said, as if he were thinking it over. “Is that right?”

“Yes, it is. I’m sorry to report that since your last checkup the emphysema has progressed to the critical stage. Your lungs were already badly damaged and scarred from the childhood tuberculosis. Add all the years of heavy smoking and chronic bronchitis, and I’m afraid all it would take is one bad cold going into another bout of pneumonia.”

“Is that right? Huh,” Oswald said again. “That doesn’t sound too good.”

The doctor closed his folder and leaned forward on his desk, looked him right in the eye, and said, “No, it doesn’t. In all honesty, Mr. Campbell, considering the alarming rapidity with which this condition has advanced, even with you going to a better climate, the most optimistic prognosis I can give you is a year . . . maybe two.”

“You’re kidding,” said Oswald.

He shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not. At this stage, the emphysema is a strain on your heart and all your other organs. It’s not just the lungs that are affected. Now, I’m not telling you this to scare you, Mr. Campbell; I only tell you so you have time to make the appropriate plans. Get your estate in order.”

As stunned as he was at the news, Oswald almost laughed out loud at the word estate. He had never had more than two hundred and fifty dollars in the bank in his entire life.

The doctor continued. “Believe me, I wish the diagnosis had been better.” And the doctor meant it. He hated having to hand out bad news. He had just met Mr. Campbell, but he had liked the personable little guy at once. “Are you sure you don’t need me to call anyone for you?”

“No, that’s all right.”

“How will this news affect your future plans, Mr. Campbell?”

Oswald looked up at him. “Pretty damn adversely, I would say, wouldn’t you?”

The doctor was sympathetic. “Well, yes, of course. I just wondered what your future plans may have been.”

“I didn’t have anything in particular in mind . . . but I sure as hell hadn’t planned on this.”

“No, of course not.”

“I knew I wasn’t the picture of health, but I didn’t think I was headed for the last roundup.”

“Well, as I said, you need to get out of Chicago as soon as you can, somewhere with as little pollution as possible.”

Oswald looked puzzled. “But Chicago is my home. I wouldn’t know where else to go.”

“Do you have any friends living somewhere else—Florida? Arizona?”

“No, everybody I know is here.”

“Ah . . . and I assume you are on a limited budget.”

“Yeah, that’s right. I just have my disability pension.”

“Uh-huh. I suppose Florida might be too expensive this time of year.”

Never having been there, Oswald said, “I would imagine.”

The doctor sighed and leaned back in his chair, trying to think of some way to be of help. “Well, let’s see. . . . Wait a minute, there was a place my father used to send all his lung patients, and as I remember the rates were pretty reasonable.” He looked at Oswald as if he knew. “What was the name of that place? It was close to Florida. . . .” The doctor suddenly remembered something and stood up. “You know what? I’ve still got all his old files in the other room. Let me go and see if by any chance I can find that information for you.”

Oswald stared at the gray wall. Leave Chicago? He might as well leave the planet.

It was already dark and still freezing cold when Oswald left the office. As he rounded the corner at the Wrigley Building, the wind from the river hit him right in the face and blew his hat off. He turned and watched it flip over and over until it landed upside down in the gutter and began to float like a boat on down the block. Oh, the hell with it, he thought, until the frigid air blew through what little hair he did have left and his ears started to ache, so he decided to run after it. When he finally caught the hat and put it back on his head he realized he was now wearing wet shoes with no socks, a wet hat, and he had just missed his bus. By the time another bus finally came, he was completely numb from the cold plus the shock of the news he had just received. As he sat down, his eye caught the advertisement above his seat for Marshall Field’s department store: make this the best christmas ever. start your christmas shopping early this year. It suddenly dawned on him that, in his case, he had better start early and it might already be too late. According to the doctor, if he did live to see it, this Christmas could be his last.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 85 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(48)

4 Star

(28)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 86 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2005

    A Must Read For Everyone Who Believes In Miracles

    How wonderful to read a book about a small town that embraces a lost soul and gives him hope, love and a reason to live. The townspeople are funny, quirky, and above all welcoming. From day one they open their doors and their hearts to Oswald T. Campbell. He thrives on their hominess and warmth. This book is a great Christmas read, but will give the reader a warm feeling inside at any time of the year. This is my first Fannie Flagg book. I look forward to reading any and all of her other books.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 17, 2004

    great book!

    A wonderful story full of kindness, redemption and possibly miracles. I laughed, I cried. I loved cardinals before I read the book but I will always think of the book now whenever I see them at my feeders. Ms. Flagg takes you to a place you just might want to live in with people you would like to know. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I didn't want it to end and the ending was quick. Wished she would have drawn out the ending more instead of lumping all the results together. Would love to see this as a movie.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    Absolutely wonderful!

    I have read all of Fannie Flagg's books and have never been disappointed. The characters are endearing. And, if you have ever been in the South, you can almost hear their southern accent as you read. If you want to read a"feel good"book, read this one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    Bookacolic!

    I just love all of Fannie Flags books. This is definately a great read im looking forward to a new book. Do yourself a favior and get lost in Flags books,

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    Best book

    This may be the best book I have ever read. I loved the characters. Made me feel so good after reading the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004

    THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!

    This was one of the best books I have ever read! I loved all the characters (especially Jack and Patsy) and I loved how Ms. Flagg made them seem real, like I could meet them on the streets one day. I missed the characters after the book almost like they were my closest friends!! I would recommend this book to EVERYONE!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book is what I would call a great 'palette cleanser".

    This book is what I would call a great 'palette cleanser". After reading a more serious book, sometimes I need something lighthearted to get my mind in the right frame of mind for the next book (and the next, and the next!). "A Redbird Christmas" is just what I was looking for. It's a feel-good story with lovable, multi-dimensional characters. Sometimes you need a happy ending, and this book provides one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2012

    Wonderful Read

    Great book with interesting things going on. Makes you want to keep turning the page to find out what will happen next.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    FANTASTIC MAN BOOK (BUT GREAT FOR WOMEN TOO)

    This book made me go out and buy cardinals for my Christmas tree!!!!!!
    It starts off with an older gent in the VA hospital in Chicago.....let me say no more except that he is a wonderful man.
    Great and easy reading - I couldn't put this one down and ended up sometimes reading a few paragraphs when I had 3 minutes!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    Love Ms Flagg's books

    This was a wonderful story but way too short....It left me wanting more so I just d/l'd another... making 3 I have read so far. This is just such a heartwarming story about an older man and a young girl and a redbird that will steal your heart away. You must read it. I will be so sad when I have read all of her books. She uses words to paint a picture and she does it so well. Her books can be read by any age and appreciated. There is no smut in any of them. If you haven't read "Can't wait to get to Heaven"...put that on your list.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND READ THIS!

    Oh, how I wish I could be there! An uplifting and enjoyable story that takes you to a warm and fuzzy place! Please someone send me the directions on how to move there. LOL

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2004

    Another Great Novel by Flagg!

    This story will definately put you in the Christmas Spirit. I did not want it to end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2004

    'It's a Wonderful Alabama!'

    Fannie Flagg gives readers an early Christmas gift in this funny, uplifting story of a bygone world where love and generosity always win. This is not a novel for cynics or those looking for a hard edged look at life. Instead Ms. Flagg reminds us that life can change on a dime and that simple acts of kindness do indeed not go unrewarded by the universe. Characters are drawn so vividly and lovingly that it's impossible not to 'see' them all in one's mind; Oswald, Frances, Mildred, Roy, Patsy and of course Jack!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2013

    A Delightful and Endearing Story Fannie Flagg gave our book gro

    A Delightful and Endearing Story

    Fannie Flagg gave our book group the Christmas spirit with her quirky cast of fun characters. We agreed that "A Redbird Christmas" was a delightful read for the holidays or any time of the year!

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  • Posted December 18, 2013

    Nice Christmas read.

    Full of typical unique and likeable characters. Good feel good read for the Christmas season.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    While this book in not just for Christmas, I have read it every

    While this book in not just for Christmas, I have read it every year at Christmas for at least four years. Last year on a road trip with my husband, we listened to this book and he loved it, too. You will not be disappointed with this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2013

    I love Fannie Flagg

    There's nothing she's written that I haven't loved. Characters are real and special each in their own right. Her stories will restore your faith in humanity.

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  • Posted November 15, 2013

    highly recommended

    This was a joyful read. I is not really a Christmas book, but it does get you in the spirit. Delightful

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    Endearing and lovable!

    Endearing and lovable!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2013

    Loved it

    Loved this little gem

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