This year, it was a nonfiction Christmas book that made me cry. Joanne Huist Smith's The 13th Gift is "A True Story of a Christmas Miracle". And, it's Smith's own story of family tragedy, and the love that brought a family back together.
Joanne Huist Smith lost her husband, Rick, in October 1999. He had put off heart surgery, hoping to be home recovering when the kids were home on Christmas break. But, his heart didn't make it to Christmas. And, then Smith couldn't find the heart to face the holiday she always loved. In fact, she didn't know how to face her children, Megan who was 10, twelve-year-old Nick, and seventeen-year-old Ben. Instead, the family was falling apart. No one knew how to cope, and the upcoming holiday didn't make it easier. And, then twelve days before Christmas, Megan found a poinsettia on the porch.
Attached to the poinsettia was a homemade card, "On the first day of Christmas your true friends give to you, one Poinsettia for all of you." Smith was angry at the intrusion, and then convinced she knew who the giver was. But, Megan was intrigued. She was young enough to still see, and want, the magic of Christmas. And, it took an anonymous stranger to reach out to Megan. As gift after gift appeared, Smith continued to reject them until she saw the changes in her children, and heard Megan whispering out an open window, telling their "true friends" that the gifts hurt her mother.
The 13th Gift is the story of a true miracle as a family came back together, and found joy in Christmas, despite their sorrow. Most important, they found the ability to reach out to others, to care again, instead of locking themselves in separate rooms as they grieved for the husband and father they all lost.
Smith, who had been a reporter for the Dayton Daily News, knows how to tell a story that rips at the heartstrings. She makes the reader care about her, her family, and the anonymous true friends. The 13th Gift is a Christmas story in the best tradition, one about changed hearts and lives. And, it's all the more special because it's true. It's a perfect story for the holiday season, a story of love, generosity, and giving from the heart.
The website is www.13thgift.com
The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith. Harmony Books. 2014. ISBN 9780553418552 (hardcover), 224p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.