What the hell does it have to do with the ultimate consumer holiday, Christmas? Atwood looks at the social concept of debt from a writer and story teller's point of view. She looks at the mythic representations of debt beginning in early agrarian Europe. Partway through, she starts talking about the most famous of loan sharks, Ebenezer Scrooge. There's a lot of references to Charles Dickens' classic, including the reality of debtor's prisons in England when Dickens was a child (his own father was held in debtor's prison for many years).
Time and again, Atwood makes thoughtful correlations between debt and the Christian concept of sin. Being in debt is the same as being a sinner, etc.
The end of the book is a witty retelling of Scrooge's midnight encounter with three ghosts. This time, Scrooge is a teeth-whitened, suntanned, fat Yuppie with a Steve Forbes mansion and lifestyle.
Perfect reading for this Christmas.