Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Book Review: "The Santa Letters" by Stacy Gooch Anderson

By Nichole Giles

Last month, on one of my daily trips to the mailbox, I found a package. I ripped it open, wondering who had sent me a gift, and why, and for what purpose. I was pleasantly surprised to find my copy of Stacy Gooch Anderson’s “The Santa Letters” enclosed. I hadn’t expected it for another week, which explains my surprise.

I pulled out the hardbound book, and looked over the cover, finding it eye-catching and beautiful, but lightweight and far from overwhelming. Just the right size for a small reading break from a crazy holiday schedule. And even though I was finishing up another book, I opened it and read a few pages.

The story tells about a newly single mother and her children, preparing to spend their first Christmas without their husband and father, who died tragically on Christmas Eve the year before. Then one day, a mysterious letter arrives for the family, beginning twelve days of religious and life lessons and inciting anticipation in the hearts of the family members. Readers are allowed to gain a small glimpse into the life of this heartbroken mother, with the back-story woven throughout the book.

The Jacket cover reads:

One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma Jensen, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in Christmas and in every other day of the year.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach—not her job, not her love for her family, and certainly not the season. The Jensen children understand that Christmas will be strained this year—all except six-year-old McKenna. Of all the family, only she still believes in the magic of Christmas, and in miracles.

But that is about to change.

When an ornate letter and mysterious package arrive on the doorstep, Emma and her sons find themselves joining McKenna on a magical journey to Christmas. Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the Jensens, and as the meaning of the Santa Letters unfold, the Jensens come to realize that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever—and that William may be closer than they think.

This year, the Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a Christmas experience that will show God’s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep.

This story promises to get the reader in the mood for the holidays, while teaching valuable lessons about forgiveness and grief. And on those promises, it follows through.

While I did enjoy this story, I found it hard to sympathize with the characters—especially the children—because I didn’t feel the author allowed me to see enough of their personal lives. There was a lot of telling, but not a lot of emotion due to the lack of relevant ‘showing’ scenes. While there was more emotion from Emma, I still had a hard time connecting her with that emotion. Point of view was also confusing, as it jumped around with jarring irregularity. Because of the nature of the letters and the fact that the sender is unknown until the end, there was a good deal of positive suspense involved, which moves the action forward, even though I was sad to miss out on some of the scenes in which the characters carried out the instructions given in the letters.

The story itself is touching, and at one point threatened to bring a tear to my eye. However, I didn’t actually shed that tear. The emotional scene ended abruptly and moved back into the realm of impersonal before it could fall. There are good lessons to be taken from the letters themselves, but be prepared for a bit of preaching.

All in all, I enjoyed this book in the same way I did “The Christmas Jars.” There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both have beautiful covers, both stories are good, touching concepts, and neither allows the reader far enough into the hearts of the main characters to actually strike a deep chord in me. That said, if you are looking for a semi-spiritual read, this one is short, festive, and looks good on a shelf or in a purse. And as an added bonus, in the back you’ll find a page of great ideas for Survival Kits for the New Year. If you enjoyed “The Christmas Jars,” you’ll love this book as well.

Though it seems like summer ended only yesterday, fall has arrived. With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s time to start getting into the spirit of things. Make a list, pull out the decorations, and read a holiday favorite today.
To buy your copy of "The Santa Letters" click HERE


Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks, Nichole!

And I love your new blog template, can I just say?

Stacy G. Anderson said...

Thanks, Nicole, for taking the time to be a part of this tour and sharing your thoughts on The Santa Letters.

All my best,

Cindy Beck, author said...

Sounds like a good book when you feel like some light reading. Thanks for the review ... I'll have to look for the book!