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A bittersweet memory of Christmas away from home; One Christmas, by Truman Capote. New York: Random House. 48 pp. $12.95.

By Sonia W. ThomasSonia W. Thomas is on the Monitor's book page staff. / December 20, 1983



Childhood memories are precious, especially ones of holiday celebrations, and we like to return to them. My first awareness of Truman Capote's book ''A Christmas Memory'' was through a televised version I saw about 15 years ago. It's the story of seven-year-old Truman, called ''Buddy'' then, and his best friend, Aunt Sook, an elderly distant cousin with whom he lived as a young child.

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The relationship between Buddy and Aunt Sook and their ingenious holiday preparations made such an impression on me that I went out and bought the book to add to my own collection of Christmas stories. I have to admit that I still find it hard to read the book without shedding a few tears at the end.

''One Christmas'' is another heart-tugger, in which Capote recalls the Christmas when he was forced to travel by bus from Alabama to New Orleans to spend the holiday with his father. Like any six-year-old, Truman found it hard to leave home and his closest companion to be with a person he barely knew. In this recollection, Capote manages to recapture the feelings of the experience: his homesickness, his amazement at his father's lavish and unusual life style, and the abrupt yet bittersweet way in which his little boy's belief in Santa Claus ends.