“Thirteen days before Christmas, gifts began appearing at my home. They were just small tokens of the holiday season, accompanied by a card with lines similar to the [Twelve Days of Christmas] carol. Each was signed simply ‘Your true friends.'” – Joanne Huist Smith
The Christmas season is nearing and Joanne has no desire to celebrate. After the recent loss of her husband, she is struggling to find the joy of the season, even though she has three children who are counting on her. Feeling alone, overwhelmed and defeated, Joanne is reminded of her husband at every turn, and knows how important the holiday season is for bringing her family together again, especially for her youngest child, Megan who is just ten. With about two weeks until Christmas, Joanne is struggling to get in the festive mood and has no shopping done; in essence, she is hoping to skip the holidays.
When gifts begin appearing on the front doorsteps with modified lyrics of the holiday song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and signed your true friends, Joanne is at first confused. These seem to be an insistence on getting in the holiday spirit, and rather than being comforting, serve as a reminder that Joanne is not ready for Christmas. Quickly, though, Joanne begins to wonder who her true friends are, and begins to rethink what the holiday is all about.
The 13th Gift: A True Story of Christmas Miracles is a little dose of comfort, going a long way to remind us of the importance of family and togetherness during a season that has come to be dominated by commercialism and indulgence. While the book is not religious in nature, and initially comes across as self-pitying and despondent, it is a very intimate and touching story of one family’s ability to overcome the darkness and desolation of Christmas with a little help from their friends. This story is well worth a read when getting into the holiday mood.
Book Club Questions:
1. What makes Christmas a pleasurable season? What makes it a challenging time?
2. What can you do to make others feel less alone or vulnerable during the holiday season?
3. Joanne is intent on “solving” the mystery of who is delivering the gifts? Is this a helpful pursuit or is it distracting and unappreciative? Why might it be best not to solve this mystery?