Monday, September 1, 2008

Book Review: The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch Anderson

How can I be thinking about Christmas when summer is barely over? After being lucky enough to participate in a blog tour for Stacy Gooch Anderson's book, The Santa Letters, I definitely have Christmas on the brain.

The story:
One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in life itself.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach; not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season. Money is tight, and emotions are taut, and this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience.
Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same.

But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change.
Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever, and that God s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep. The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all.

I must admit, I'm not a fan of mushy Christmas stories. I love the Christmas carols, the lights, the Christmas Spirit, and the focus on Jesus Christ, but things like Christmas specials on TV make me roll my eyes. I must admit that I picked up The Santa Letters with trepidation, prepared to trudge through something "heartwarming," "uplifting," and be force fed dripping sentimentality.

The Santa Letters was not what I was expecting. I didn't have to force myself through it at all. And while perhaps a couple times it got close to the line of dripping sentimentality, it never crossed over. You feel for Emma, and can really sympathize with her pain, grief, and despair. Stacy Gooch-Anderson does not write in flowery prose or with imagery that will dazzle, but the more down-to-earth writing style brings home difficult emotions and really lets us identify with characters that could really be you or me. How many of us don't go through times when, although we may not be facing the death of a spouse, we feel as if we just can't go on, yet we have to.

I would have enjoyed a little less head-hopping and think the story could stand on its own if it stayed mostly from Emma's point of view. And sometimes Santa got a tad long-winded in his letters. Regardless, The Santa Letters is a wonderful story to help us remember the blessings we have and how we can turn to God to get through tough times. The Santa Letters is heartwarming and uplifting, but not hit-you-over-the-head heartwarming and uplifting.

I also love that it is based in real life experience. (I must admit I am stealing Stacy's story from the first stop on her blog tour over at Shirley Bahlman's blog, where you can find a great interview with Stacy.)
Question: What gave you the idea for writing the Santa Letters?

Stacy: A few years back, I found out that two of my sons had been in a sexually abusive situation. And since some of the perpetrators had been wards of the state, there was a lot of pressure for us to back off. At one point, I had so much anger for what DCFS had put us through that I almost let it destroy me. But this wonderful little voice reminded me of all the things my parents had taught me and insisted that if I wanted to raise sons with integrity, love, compassion and forgiving hearts, I had to learn to do that myself and be an example. Since there was no money for Christmas - it all had gone to legal and counseling bills - I came upon the idea of the Santa Letters as a way to help our family heal and remember all the gifts we had been given throughout the years. I never intended our experience to become a book but I had a friend who when she found out what we'd been doing, she encouraged and challenged me to share it with others.

You can find out more about Stacy and The Santa Letters on her website, and stop by her blog.

For a special treat, here's a trailer for The Santa Letters.

You can order copies of the book online at Amazon or Deseret Book.


Jewel's Gems said...

Great blog, and I love the video:o)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks for this review, Jaime! How awesome!

Stacy G. Anderson said...

Thanks, Jaime, for the wonderful review! I'm glad you liked it and didn't have to roll your eyes too much...;-)

Thanks again for being part of this.


LC Lewis's "Hear Ye, Hear Ye" said...

Interesting review, Jaime. I had heard about The Santa Letters but I had no idea what they were about.

Framed said...

Great review. I just finished it and loved it although I had early misgivings similar to yours. I'm glad to read the bit from Stacy's interview. Extra insight is always good.

Vicki Mac said...

Great review. It mirrors my feelings about this book. What a good read