“Yes, you see, there’s no such thing as coincidence. There are no accidents in life. Everything that happens is the result of a calculated move that leads us to where we are.”
I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe in intricate relational causes and effects that “lead us to where we are”. Where we are is examining all the ways members of the communications fields are the “new scrooges” of the holiday season.
So far, we’ve looked at a major motion picture and a made-for-television movie. Today, we’ll break from bullying the film industry and examine a new Christmas novel.
This time of year is busy and stressful. Like everyone else it seems, our family has had a really, really long hard year. I’ll be happy to see 2016 go.
In order to remain calm, I use prayer, exercise, talking with a friend, and having a cup of tea.
Sometimes when I’m having a cup of tea, I’ll sit in my favorite chair and pick up an easy-to-read book. Preferably one with a happy ending and doesn’t make me think too much. I ready a lot of pretty serious things throughout the day, and this time of year, I like to pick up a few feel-good Christmas novels just to clear my mind. I’ll unashamedly admit it’s a guilty pleasure.
A few weeks ago my husband and I were in Barnes and Noble and they had a whole display of such books for me to spend a forgotten gift certificate on.
I plowed through one, and just when I decided to write this series, I picked up the second one. One page into Nancy Naigle‘s Christmas Joy (2016; St. Martin’s Griffin) and I said to myself: “There are no coincidences. Just the perfect gift of blog post ideas.”
Naigle doesn’t hide this gift under a lot of fancy wrapping paper and glitzy ribbons. From the very first sentence, Naigle tosses her character in my lap, as if to say “There you go. Enjoy.”
How could two pint-sized kids whip my well-controlled focus group into a frenzy in a matter of time?
Naigle’s main character, Joy, happens to be a market researcher who has no significant relationships and makes no time for family. She is only concerned with getting the big promotion at a prestigious marketing firm that she feels she so richly deserves. With the exception of one friend at her firm, her other coworkers are seen as bothersome. Likewise and in her mind, family members and people she meets along the way are only there to present inconvenient obstacles to Joy’s one-track, career-oriented path.
Here are but a few of Naigle’s offerings about the character of Joy in Christmas Joy:
Joy knew that she hadn’t treated [her aunt] Ruby like real family . . . she’d shoved Ruby aside . . always allowing work to take precedence unless Ruby showed up. And even then, Ruby had to resort to showing up with hardly any notice to keep Joy from worming her way out of the visit. (Page 37)
Good intentions were easy to promise, but actually taking time off for anything had not been in her master plan. Time off just seemed like time not well spent. (Page 107)
It was in her span of control to [let her team have an afternoon off to go Christmas shopping], but she wouldn’t have. . . (Page 111)
So you are a workaholic who has never been married. Have no children. Haven’t celebrated Christmas since you lived here in Crystal Falls. (Page 204)
There are other hints and revelations scattered about the life that Joy has been living up to this particular point, but you get the idea.
You also get the idea that the people around Joy think that she is wasting her talents and life in pursuing this life as a market researcher. Naigle shows this throughout the novel in conversations and thoughts that the other characters have with and about Joy.
I could write a whole other book review about the flatness of the characters and an element of the plot that was introduced in one of the earlier chapters that would have made this novel so much more interesting, but was never fully developed. But that is for another forum.
The point that I want to stress about this novel is that it perfectly portrays market researchers as the new scrooges. Just as you would expect, in the end Joy must choose between continuing to live her life as she has, or to change for the “better”. And like all holiday movies, shows and books, Joy ends up making the “right” choices.
To be fair, Naigle doesn’t single out all marketing research professionals as selfish, unkind, aloof and scrooge-like. Just this particular researcher. Naigle also reveals some personal struggles that Joy has with celebrating Christmas: her father left her mother and her around Christmas time, and her mother died a few years later around Christmas time. That certainly doesn’t have anything to do with Joy’s career as a market researcher.
However, Naigle sprinkles enough criticism about her character’s career choice throughout the novel that it can’t help but leave you with the impression that market research is seen as an undesirable career choice, especially if you want to find joy at Christmas. Naigle’s point is that her character Joy has been working on a Christmas account for over a year and a half, yet doesn’t understand the true meaning of friends, family and Christmas. Her job as market researcher has clouded her judgment in regards to everything important.
I understand Naigle’s use of irony in this novel, yet when I finally reached the end of Christmas Joy, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for market researchers everywhere.
If you’re looking for a light holiday read, then by all means pick up Naigle’s Christmas Joy. It’s a good distraction for a few minutes a day over a cup of tea.
But, if you’re a market researcher, I might skip this one.