Sunday, November 2, 2014

The 13th Gift - A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Spirit

I love books about the holidays.  I always find them touching and try to read as many seasonally themed books as I can in the months leading up to Christmas.  When I saw this book offered through the Blogging For Books program I ordered it right away.  I was intrigued by the fact that it was a true story and hoped that it was something similar to Richard Paul Evans' The Christmas Box Miracle.  I wasn't disappointed.  If you enjoy emotionally charged true stories about the way the Christmas spirit empowers people to love and give of themselves, this is a book for you.

In The 13th Gift, author Joanne Huist Smith relates the story of the first Christmas she shares with her children after the death of her husband just a few months earlier.  Mysterious gifts begin to arrive on her doorstep with attached notes that follow a "Twelve Days of Christmas" theme.  They are all simply signed "From your true friends".  The first gift - a brightly wrapped pointsettia, is unwelcome by Joanne.  She finds it a reminder of a list of demands that the season will place on her which she will have to face alone.  Her children are more open to the gifts that keep popping up, particularly her daughter Megan.  As each new gift appears the family bonds over a shared curiosity surrounding the identity of the true friends and the desire to work through their grief without leaving the memories of their beloved father behind.

This book is poignant because it is told in a straightforward and honest voice.  The author doesn't shy away from the anger she feels over her husband's untimely death and she looks back on the season of the gifts with great perspective.  The book is often humorous, but also touches on the wide range of emotions that accompanies grief.  We feel her desperation to connect with her teenage son and the fear she has of sleeping in the room she shared with her husband as much as we do the pleasure derived from finally getting the Christmas shopping done and connecting with her kids through the mystery of the gifts.

Through the magic of the season and the help of the Smith family's friends and relatives, Christmas arrives and the focus of the day isn't on their grief, but rather the new memories they will make together.  The mystery of the true friends' identity is also addressed in the last chapters of the book, along with the way the Smiths carried the magic of the gifts in their hearts and into their futures.

I found this story particularly moving because my mother lost her father and her grandmother just days before Christmas when she was a young mother herself.  Although it happened many years before I was born, my mom has always approached the holidays with a lingering sadness.  On Christmas day each year she would run herself mad making sure dinner was on the table and everything was perfect, but was often found in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, hidden from the rest of us who were all celebrating in the other room.  I never realized the extent of her grief or how much the holidays were stressful to her until I was older.  I think my mom would find great comfort in this story, as would anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one, particularly during the holiday season.

If you are looking for an uplifting novel this Christmas season, grab a box of tissues and crack open the spine of The 13th Gift.  It is a story suitable for most ages although there is some mild profanity, and of course the subject of the loss and grief.

I received both a digital copy and also a hardbound copy of this beautiful book from the folks at Blogging For Books for the purpose of review.  Thank you for allowing me the chance to read it and express my thoughts.

Much love to all of you.  I hope you had a great weekend.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow because I'll be sharing my first giveaway here on my blog!  See you then!

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