‘O Tannenbaum’ by Maile Meloy


O Tannenbaum by Maile Meloy, 2007

The magic trick:

Throwing a series of adult issues and tensions into what begins as a friendly family Christmas story

Maybe don’t read this Christmas story to the kids tonight. Things go in some pretty adult directions pretty quickly. Thing is, the story establishes a family tone at the start and maintains it throughout. Well, not really a family tone, per se. But the story is about a young family – mom, dad, 4-year-old daughter – cutting down a Christmas tree.

The 4-year-old is present throughout, decorating the tree, doing normal holiday kid things. Meanwhile, there is a ton of tension between the parents, a ton of baggage, a ton of sexual desire, and a ton of pent-up anger. The combination of elements keeps the reader tense and the story aligned with an all-too-common family reality. And that’s quite a trick on Meloy’s part.

The selection:

Everett looked to Pam in the back seat; Pam frowned, then nodded. He got out of the Jimmy, and this time the girl did brush his arm on purpose, he was sure of it. When she and Clyde were bundled in the way back again, with the tree tied down, Everett called in the theft of the car on the CB.

‘Do you think we should wait for the cops?’ Clyde asked.

‘I’m not waiting in the cold any more,’ Bonnie said. ‘Jesus, who steals a car at Christmas?’


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