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I am so jealous of the Smiths.
No, wait, that came out wrong. The Smiths had a horrible, terrible thing happen to them when Mr. Smith died. Joanne is heartbroken and limp, unsure if she is even capable of continuing on without her husband. I don't envy that! But what I do envy is the joyous mystery of the Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. How exciting it would be to have a different kind gift show up on your doorstep the twelve days before Christmas! What a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit!
And, of course, that's what the gifts were for. They were given because the Smiths were in mourning, and they needed some holiday cheer. And while Joanne may have begun the twelve days of Christmas covering her ears at the hint of a Christmas carol, she certainly ended them in much better shape.
This book reads like fiction, and well-written fiction at that. Joanne is a reporter and you can definitely tell that she's got a way with words. She wrote this book almost fifteen years after the events it describes took place, so she had time to step back and analyze her own condition and the conditions of her three kids at the time, and portray them brutally honestly.
That brings me to the children. I feel so bad for those kids! The youngest girl, Megan, was only ten when her father died. How horrible. She is actually the one who deals with it the best, though, as she gets wrapped up in the excitement of Christmas and acts as peacemaker between her mother and her oldest brother Ben. Ben was seventeen when his father died, and you can see how hard it was for him to lose his male authority figure at such a difficult time. He struggles to deal with his emotions, and (especially early in the book) winds up hurting his mother with his rebellious behavior more than he means to. Nick, the middle child, was so cute! He spent most of the book rotating between being a kid who just lost his father, and a kid who wants a new computer, a new bed, a new room, and a new video game console for Christmas. All three kids are drawn realistically with the eye for detail only a mother can furnish.
A word of warning to those who want to read it for the heartwarming Christmas book that it is: there are, like, three instances of bad language in the book, all toward the beginning. I think there are two or so uses of the word "damn" and in one instance someone in the parking lot yells "a-hole" at a rude driver. I really wish she hadn't put these words in, because the book could have flowed just as well without them, and it makes me leery to wholeheartedly recommend the book to many people who would otherwise love it.
Besides that, though, it's a beautiful story and a heartwarming read that I am very glad I was able to spend a few hours enjoying. If you don't mind the minor amount of language, then you should find nothing at all wrong with this story of love, loss, family, and Christmas.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.