The Red Button
by Keith Eldred
“The Red Button” is a wonderfully clever book by author Keith Eldred. I think just about everyone is familiar with the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. This book expands upon what we learned from the first of the three ghosts who visit Scrooge on the infamous Christmas Eve in the original, classic Dickens story. In that book, the Ghost of Christmas Past reveals that after a painful childhood, when Scrooge was a young man, he fell in love with a woman named Belle. He even proposed marriage, and she accepted. Gradually, though, his love for financial success exceeded his love for her. To her credit, Belle realized that she was less important to Scrooge than accumulation of wealth was, and she ended their engagement – at Christmas time. Wouldn’t that sour anybody on both love and Christmas?
The book blurb lets a potential reader know that the romance between Ebenezer and Belle was doomed and in that respect the book has an unhappy ending. It’s not a typical fiction read for me, because, let’s be honest, the world is full of so much sadness and frustration already that fictional happy endings are always welcome. Yet, I was intrigued. The story of Scrooge practically defines the Christmas holiday. It was tempting to learn more about his character – even written by a contemporary author 150 years after the death of the original creator. Once I started reading, I found this book to be a compelling one. I give the author a lot of credit for taking on the daunting task of trying to provide that information in a way that pays tribute to the work of the original author.
Eldred does a good job broadening the characters of Belle and Ebenezer, although I do wish Ebenezer would have spoken more in the beginning and during the relationship. I liked that Belle called him Ben, which I thought humanized him a lot in an unexpected way. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot, because it’s clearly the result of significant thought and research. I will tell you that there are several unexpected aspects of the story, and multiple things happen that I never would’ve anticipated. A couple of those things were a little unnecessary, in my personal opinion, but I understood that the author was trying to kind of circle back to paranormal elements being included in the original.
Parts of this book have an unusual narrator, and it’s almost surprisingly effective in several different ways. That narrator doesn’t tell the whole story, and at times I thought the transitions were a bit awkward or unclear. Gaining a wider perspective on Scrooge also involves learning more about his connections with other characters in the original book. I was impressed by how thoroughly this story accomplished that.
If you’re a fan of the original book, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or even if you only know of Scrooge from the movies, I think you’re likely to enjoy this excellent prequel. It’s great to read at the holiday season or any time at all.