Poor Marley got a raw deal.
He’s condemned to live forever, chained to the money boxes and ledger books he loved in life. But Scrooge? Scrooge gets a second chance. Scrooge gets his cold, empty life warmed and filled with love and joy and family.
Tom Mula didn’t think that was fair. So he retold Dicken’s Christmas Carol from Jacob Marley’s point of view.
The result, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, is an absolute delight.
The book first came out twenty years ago, so if you’ve already read it, you’ll have to forgive me. I discovered it tucked on a shelf at the back of A Good Book, our local indie bookstore. It was a used copy, although you’d never know it from the condition it was in. I doubt it had ever been read.
And such a shame that is! The original owner of this little book doesn’t know what they missed.
Marley got an offer he couldn’t refuse
The first words of the book are the words you expect: “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” And, to make sure there is no doubt, Mula repeats the first three words: “Marley was dead.”
Which is why Marley was somewhat surprised to find himself, in the next paragraph, “in a dark, dusty, ill-swept hallway, littered with old rags and scraps of paper.” That was somewhat less uncomfortable than the place he was expecting to find himself, mind you.
But he soon learns that the room at the end of this hallway is the business office of the Counting House, where “all is paid to the last farthing.”
And Marley, in life, had racked up quite a debt.
This book, like Dickens’ original Christmas Carol, is a story of redemption. Of Scrooge’s redemption, yes. But this book is also the story of Marley’s redemption.
When Marley (with the help of a bogle) realizes the impossibility of paying his debt, he’s offered a deal. He can earn his freedom, and have his entire debt forgiven, if he can effect “a Total and Complete Change of Heart on the said subject, Mr. E. Scrooge; (said Change must be Willing and Irreversible).”
The problem, of course, is that Scrooge is a particularly hard case, and Marley never particularly liked Scrooge. He’s not sure he likes Scrooge enough to want to help him. But the idea of Eternity in the Counting House is even less appealing.
And so the adventure begins.
The book is back
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol won’t ever replace Dickens’ masterful original, of course, and isn’t meant to. Think of it as a gift given to those who love the original, and wrapped in a story that is sweet and funny and silly and serious, all at the same time.
The book is back in print (with a different cover), so it’s worth checking with your local indie bookstore to see if they can get you a copy. You can also get it on Amazon, but it’s out of stock at the moment, so you might not be able to get it in time for Christmas. But that’s okay. It’s worth getting, whenever you can find it.
Five Tips for a Merrier Christmas: If thinking about Christmas makes you feel stressful rather than joyful, these five tips can help.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: A Review: A picture book that’s sold for kids, but it’s really for grownups. Seriously. If you love poetry, if you love Robert Frost, you’ll love this book.
The Quiltmaker’s Gift: A review: Get Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol for yourself. Get The Quiltmaker’s Gift for your kids. Both books tell the story of a miserly person who is brought to repentance through the help of a little bit of magic.