It had to be a Holiday Read - the last book I have read on my kindle in 2014. I started it while still travelling to and from work on the train and finished it on the evening of the 26th.
"The Christmas Tree" by Rick Amburgey follows the boy Charles from when he is 10 years old until he comes home for Christmas during his first year at college. Every year, the holiday season is what Charles looks most forward to, starting off with Thanksgiving. He loves everything about the holidays - helping his Mom preparing the food, eating the Turkey dinner (and then living on turkey salad sandwiches for weeks afterwards), putting up the Christmas tree and its ornaments (each of which has its own story), going to the Black Friday sales with his Mom, finding the perfect Christmas gifts for everyone, and then celebrating Christmas itself.
He meets a girl and falls in love with her when they are in their teens, and the two of them know from the start they want to stay together for good. Her family is very welcoming, and Charles' family accept Shelly as if she was their daughter soon, too.
For a while, Charles struggles with his desire to do something about his faith and his spirituality, knowing full well that his Dad is totally against it (to him, all churches are sects and dangerous to young minds), and sadly, that potential conflict is not picked up again after a few chapters when I really expected this development to be described in more detail.
Speaking of detail - the author sometimes has the tendency to over-explain a conversation or a situation, making his characters repeat the same stories to each other over and over again, and describing unnecessary things such as that they opened the car doors, got out of the car and walked across the parking lot to the big doors of the supermarket, when it would have been enough to say that they went to the supermarket.
Also, grammar is clearly not Mr. Amburgey's forte; some editing would have been good for the book, which in itself is an interesting and sometimes touching read, just right for the season. I am pretty sure that Charles is the author's alter ego; the way he writes about what happens in those years sounds very much as if he is writing down the memories of his own youth.
The holiday traditions that are probably very familiar to most American readers but somewhat exotic for me (Black Friday - I never understood that one, and most likely never really will!) are set against the background of Charles growing up in the 1980s; the last chapter ends with the winter of 1987/88. Charles was born the same year as I, 1968, and so I can relate to most of his references to music and films of those years.
I liked the "30 days Friendship Cake" his mother makes, and has Charles deliver to people dotted around the communiy to show them they are not forgotten, such as Old Man Rodriguez and Widow Bennington.
All in all, the story would have greatly benefited of proof-reading and editing. As it was a free ebook (what else!), I can't complain.