• Various/Onna Carr

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck: A Book in Review

By Onna Carr

Recently, I read A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck, the third novel in his Grandma Dowdel trilogy, which also includes A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. I loved this series because all the stories center around the Intrepid and Strong Grandma Dowdel, and are told as seen through the eyes of her grandchildren, and in the case of A Season of Gifts, her neighbor boy.

Grandma Dowdel is a Remington shotgun toting (fully loaded double barrels -- what would be the point otherwise?), fruitcake, pie, and spirit (both alcoholic and supernatural) makin', justice wielding and mercy givin' woman, who can handle herself a town full of Flukes, Burdicks, and the occasional travelling evangelist with their choir girls and hard liquor.

Grandma Dowdel's strength lies in the hard won knowledge and devil-may-care panache gained from fifty-plus years of living around people who'd do just about anything but change for the better. Grandma Dowdel, despite all the odds, has a generous heart, which is why she brings her swift and sure judgement upon those who truly deserve it, with a deft precision that would've impressed Mattie Ross of True Grit.

In A Season of Gifts, Grandma Dowdel takes care of bullies, pays to (anonymously) replace a church's windows with profits from an Native American princess' burials and accompanying memento sales, feeds the hungry via stealth, steals a couple of Christmas trees to spread Holiday Cheer along with her fruitcakes, arranges a "shotgun" wedding for a pregnant high school girl, and trains a seven-year-old girl in her ways--business as usual in in her small town: Grandma Dowdel has the upper hand, never abuses this fact, and never (and I do mean never) shows her hand.

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