Father Andrew M. Greely, the priest who is also a bestselling novelist, here tells a Christmas story as warm as a loving heart - a book to cherish.It's beginning to look a lot like an American Christmas: irritable, unpleasant relatives; horrible weather, miserable travel; a slobbering dog - and one Jack Flanigan, ""a harmless American of Irish origins,"" who is reluctantly but totally falling in love - with one Odessa Tatiana Alekseevna Shuskulya, a young woman from Russia who's studying at Harvard. (Jack, of course, is attending Boston College, the Jesuits' hangout in Chestnut Hill.).One Tuesday, Jack picks her up in Harvard Square, showing off the Russian language he's been studying. It's not the urge to talk Russian that moves him, though; it's her spectacular, dark-eyed beauty. How is he to know that he's getting mixed up with a mystic who makes Alyosha Karamazov look like an earthbound nerd? At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
Not your average Christmas tale, this big-hearted but saccharine short novel sets up callow Boston College student Jack Flanigan with beautiful, soulful Harvard undergrad Tatiana Alexseevna Shuskulya, just in time for Advent. A Russian studies major, Jack first glimpses Tatiana reading a Russian newspaper and, trying to show off his meager command of the language, succeeds only in making her acquaintance. As the two pious but hormonally healthy virgins become friends, Jack worries that Tatiana will spend Christmas alone, invites her (with some trepidation) home to Chicago for the holiday, then watches the Scripture-citing Orthodox girl with the "rich and glorious breasts" sweep his pugnacious Irish family off its feet. Scattered throughout the book are poems, songs, stories from Tatiana's homeland and more blarney about Mother Russia and the True Meaning of Christmas than most readers will be able to swallow in such a concentrated dose. As usual, former priest Greeley is a kindly matchmaker and a forgiving Catholic: fans may gobble down his latest confection like so much Christmas rom-baba. (Oct.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 30, 2004
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Excerpt from Star Bright! by Andrew M. Greeley
It was said by the very old peasants in my country-- and now it is said again -- that on some very special Christmas nights Mary and Joseph and the Child come back to earth. There is snow on the ground and the nights are cold but not too cold. The blanket of stars in the sky is like a blanket of spring flowers. The angels and the shepherds and the shepherds' children and the twelve wise men come with them."
"Twelve?" I asked. "I thought there were only three."
"We Russians know better," Odessa said waving my question aside as a silly interruption. "It is also said that when men and women of faith who know where the cave is enter it to gaze on the child, they see something truly amazing."
"They see that the face of the Child is their own face. Then they realize they are the beloved child! Is that not wondrous!"
It sounded like pantheism to me, but what did I know? I was nothing more than an Irish kid from the South Side of Chicago. How did I get mixed up with a Russian mystic who made Alyosha Karamazov look like an earthbound nerd?
"My family," I observed, "engages in gladiatorial mayhem on Christmas. I'm the referee who is supposed to make peace."
"What a shame," Odessa shook her head in sadness. "They will not see the beloved Child. As the Russian proverb says, he who fears wolves will never go into the woods."
I didn't see how the proverb fit, but I had enough sense not to ask.
I had made a mistake when I invited her to come home with me for Christmas. Our date for the festival was not the same as the Russian date. Christmas was not the great feast in the East that it had become in the West. We were not seriously involved with one another, at least I didn't think we were. My solemn, mystical grand duchess would not fit with the South Side Irish, especially my contentious manic family.