James Patterson’s books have sold more than 230 million copies, and you just don’t post that kind of numbers without striking a real chord with your audience—the man seems to have a genuine knack for turning casual readers into rabid fans. In the last few decades, Patterson has become the Sara Lee of popular fiction, churning out an all-you-can-read buffet of sugary, carb-heavy best-sellers: There’s mysteries featuring psychologist Alex Cross and Det. Michael Bennett, the “Women’s Murder Club” series and even books for young readers. Patterson writes some books on his own, while others are completed by co-writers who follow Patterson’s meticulously plotted outlines.
Patterson’s latest book, The Christmas Wedding (Little, Brown and Co., $26) was written with Richard DiLallo. I don’t know what comes as more of a surprise: that readers would actually buy this piece of mindless treacle, or that it took two people to execute this literary atrocity. I don’t have a problem with romance novels, but The Christmas Wedding insults the reader’s intelligence. The Christmas Wedding is a book, all right, but that’s not the only four-letter word I could use to describe it.
Gaby Summerhill has been a widow for three years. She’s a teacher, who also makes a habit of feeding the homeless in her community. She has four grown children, and none of them have been home for Christmas since their father’s funeral. Claire, the oldest, has a good-for-nothing husband who smokes weed, a habit he’s passed on to their oldest son, Gus. Lizzie, the next in line, is married to Mike, who—get out your handkerchiefs, folks—has brain cancer. Seth, Gaby’s only son, works at an ad agency. He’s written a novel, but struggles to get it published. Emily is the youngest, a lawyer married to a neurologist. Poor Emily: She’s not sure she finds her job satisfying!
Gaby, slyboots that she is, has a surefire way of getting the whole family together for the holidays! She’s getting married, but she won’t reveal the name of the groom until the day of the ceremony. She’s keeping everyone in suspense, including her suitors: a local farmer, a rabbi and her brother-in-law, each of whom loves Gaby as much as Patterson hopes you will.
I’ll be honest: I cried a lot while reading The Christmas Wedding, but not because I was moved by the sentimental plot or the clichéd characters; I cried because the book was so bloody awful.
There is an occurrence in popular culture where something (a song, a movie, a novel) is so bad, it’s actually good. The Christmas Wedding is not one of those instances. I don’t normally encourage friends to buy electronic readers, but if you must read this book, please download it; The Christmas Wedding isn’t the kind of book you waste paper on.