Thursday, August 23, 2018

Book Review: 'The Christmas Tree' by Abdiel LeRoy

"Until we meet again by the River of Life." A testament to love in this world and the next

The handsome actor/former journalist/religion correspondent/author Abdiel LeRoy is a British-American whose life is largely inspired by the Bible, Shakespeare, and the great epic poem, 'Paradise Lost'. As a poet Abdiel embraces giant tasks – the lives of Elijah, Obama, Bush, and Trump in his VERSES VERSUS EMPIRE series, as well as the very fine DUELING THE DRAGON, THE GOURMET GOSPEL, THE CHRISTMAS TREE and now the VERSES VERSUS EMPIRE series. He also has worked as a broadcaster, financial analyst, and market commentator, while his passions also include Argentine Tango, Yoga, and competitive swimming. His voice both as a narrator for dramatic readings and on stage is being recognized as a brave new presence in the politics of the globe. As an actor, Abdiel has embodied most of the major Shakespearean roles, and on stages from New York to London to Beijing, though perhaps his most famous appearance is in the hit short-film series, ‘The Expert.’ He has also staged three one-man shows, including the famous children's tale, ‘Wind in the Willows.

For those who have been impressed and satisfied with Abdiel’s poetry in his VERSES VERSUS EMPIRE series, this prose novel will be a pleasant surprise. Yes, Abdiel can write poetry with impact with the best of them, but can he offer a Christmas story that is both fresh, entertaining and inspirational? The answer is most affirmatively YES!

Quite simple stated, the main character of this story if a little tree who through an adventure is chopped down, trucked away from his forest family, and placed in the Christmas tree market. A human family finds him, takes him home, decorates him, celebrates Christmas, and then ‘discards’ him – only to be saved by a spiritual visit to Paradise where more adventures occur until he is in the presence of angels and of Gabriel himself. 

Some passages form the book share the wonder: ‘But let us talk about our one very special tree. For before this tree was even a seed, Heaven had conceived him and blessed him and loved him, and had chosen him since before the beginning of Time, before forests even existed or even the earth for them to stand in. And we would not even know this tree were Heaven not our guide. For now, as we look down in our imaginations upon the treetops of the forest, a divine light descends with us amid the thick mass of green branches, and we glide down into the very heart of the tree the Spirit adores. That broken morning, our tree trembled in nameless woe, not knowing what trouble befell his cousins and brothers and sisters on the far reaches of the wood. How he wished he could flee, to race across the vales and seek refuge among the neighbouring families of woods whose fame had reached our wood. But our tree had no legs. Or if he did, they were not yet freed from his woody mass. He looked up and wished that he could leap high into the air, or fly as the birds which now raced across the sky above him in loud alarm. But our tree had no wings. The squirrels too ran past in terrified haste, some at his feet, some leaping from branch to branch.’

‘Finally, the little boy and his father (for our tree had now learned the difference between a boy and a man and knew the boy to be the son of the man) wrapped a line of shiny ornaments around our tree. And when they connected this line to what they called a "wall," the ornaments lit up in many-coloured brilliance, and this brilliance filled the room as night fell. The tree's heart swelled within his timbered breast in delight. And he played in his fancies with the shadows around and beneath and above him. He also realized that the young boy had a mother and a sister. And he remembered with sorrow his own dear sister, wishing that she might stand in a room as beautiful as this, and be surrounded by creatures as kind. Over the coming days, more packages accumulated at the foot of our tree, and delicious fragrances filled the air, and the creatures drank of inspiriting waters and ate good things. They celebrated and danced on their two legs and made music upon that toothed object, which they called a "piano," and sang and told stories and recited poems.’

Lyrical, spiritually enchanting, this little story is more than just another Christmas story (though it is most assuredly that). Instead this is a unique novel that marries tradition with biblical involvement and in doing so becomes an important part of our literature. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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