The Thirteenth Gift

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A True Story of a Christmas Miracle  51LYhpc2sOL._SL300_

By Joanne Hurst Smith

Published by Penguin Random House

Audible addition by Random House

Narration by the author

Run time 5 hours 25 minutes

This is a true story of one family’s journey from heartache to Christmas miracle.  Joanne’s husband passed away suddenly in early fall and she feels they’re doing okay. They’re functioning. In the most basic way. But with Christmas  approaching, the heartache at the loss is taking a toll and the last thing she feels capable of doing is celebrate the season.

As a mother, Joanne is torn between the loss of her children’s father and their need for this special season to be a celebration. To make new memories more than just get through the month. She’s blind to the real problems. The family is pulling apart. Then something magical happens. Twelve days before Christmas, gifts start showing on her doorstop. They are simple gifts with cards signed from “Your True Friends.”

Her first instinct isn’t to appreciate these unwanted gifts, but to toss them aside. The second gift arrives, and the children start to wonder who is leaving them. Before Joanne knows it, the family is rallying in search of their True Friends. And banding together to unravel this mystery.

I’m going to admit it: I cried. This is a wonderful story about the true meaning of caring more than Christmas, though that certainly is shown. Well-written and moving, I read the book and then when the audio version came out, purchased that, too. To hear Joanne’s words in her voice just really brought this book to life for me. I can’t imagine how hard it was to read and not choke up.

As some of you may not know, I was born with a heart defect. Why do I bring this up? Because there is a section in the book where Joanne speaks of her husband’s co-workers and what they did for her family. This section reminded me of a time in my own experience. While I was in the hospital having open-heart surgery, my mother’s co-workers sent bags and bags of stuffed animals, which for a 7-year-old was just wonderful. There were several sections that brought these times to mind and really brought me into the story.

The 13th Gift is a well-written book about life. The audio version couldn’t have been better. My opinion: the best narrator is generally the author. In this case, there could have been no one else who would have done it justice.

Would I recommend this book? I have and do. Was there anything I didn’t like about the book? Besides the fact that it started with a tragedy, no. I was pulled in and forgot to look – yes, writers often look – for issues.