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The 13th Gift: A True Story Of A Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith

I know, I know--I'm either late or early reading this book for Christmas.  However, I'll watch a Christmas movie even if it isn't Christmas time.  I love Hallmark Christmas movies; I've watched Lifetime's Christmas movies (not as good Hallmark's though); I've watched ionTV's Christmas movies.  I guess you could say that Christmas movies is another genre I enjoy almost as much as British period dramas.  Or maybe I like them both equally.  Anyway I don't normally read Christmas themed books.  I have read Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand, a Christmas themed book by an author I love.  My grandmother found The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith in a magazine somewhere back in December.  She read it about the same time as Napkin Notes and enjoyed it more than that one as did I.  I've checked this book out of the library a few times, and because of other readings that got in the way, I only recently got around to reading it.

In the aftermath of her husband's sudden, devastating death, Joanne and their three children are treading water emotionally and barely holding it together in the weeks before Christmas.  Still reeling from her grief, Joanne dreads this first Christmas without her husband and contemplates skipping the holiday altogether.  Then about twelve days before Christmas, mysterious gifts start arriving on the family's doorstep from an anonymous giver(s) who call themselves the Smith family's "true friends."  Patterned after the popular Christmas carol, "The 12 Days of Christmas," a gift and card appear on the family's doorstep each day leading up to Christmas.

At first Joanne resents the intrusion and resists being pulled into the holiday spirit, but the ensuing anticipation, mystery, and excitement that comes with the appearance of each gift unexpectedly rekindles the Christmas spirit in both Joanne and her children.  The mystery of the gifts draws her family together enabling them to find some bittersweet joy in the first Christmas without their father and husband and allows for some healing from their devastating loss.  For the first time, the family thinks they may be okay in the wake of their loss.

Some thoughts I had while I was reading this book:

If this story ends and we don't find out the who and why behind the gifts, I will be severely disappointed.  Also these events take place in 1999, how does Joanne remember the details of the dialog and the events from so many years ago?

I enjoyed this book.  The suspense of the mystery of the gifts kept me reading as did the emotional journey that the Smith family takes throughout the story.  This is a quick and easy read, and it's rather heartwarming story.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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