cover image Santa and Pete: A Novel of Christmas Present and Past

Santa and Pete: A Novel of Christmas Present and Past

Christopher Moore. Simon & Schuster, $14.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-684-85495-3

This heartwarming holiday story is a welcome addition to the small roster of tales that relate an ethnically based story for a general readership. Welcome, too, is the strong prose and sure craftsmanship that keeps sentimentality at arm's length while spinning an absorbing narrative. The African American narrator, Terence, looks back on the winter of 1959, when he was a boy and accompanied his grandfather, a bus driver, on his Saturday route, receiving from the old gentleman a capsule history of old New York and an introduction to his African American heritage. Harkening back to the time when the city was New Amsterdam, grandfather tells the story of Pete, born a slave in Spain and a worker in a Seville prison during the Inquisition, when the real St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop, was imprisoned there. According to grandfather, Pete became Santa's sidekick and they sailed for the New World. The story of their adventures, delivered with humor and easily assimilated historical details, is inspirational in the best sense, grounded in truths of human nature and ethical conduct. In a genre where a blatant tug on the heartstrings often takes the place of substance, this affecting and illuminating story is a standout. (Nov.)