The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith


“They knew the power of the twelve gifts because they had endured the same pain. Their compassion for us had grown from a deep knowledge of the sweetness and sorrow of the season, when joy and grief intertwine.”

How does a grieving family deal with Christmas? Joy is replaced with pain and smiles with tears. One family in Dayton, Ohio, deals with just that during the Christmas season of 1999. Rick, the husband and father, dies of a heart attack after putting off surgery so they could enjoy the holidays together. Knowing that and his not being there puts the mom and oldest son not wanting to even celebrate. The two other children still want to see the magic of Christmas come alive. Then, a present is found on their porch that changes everything.

I saw this book when I attended a writing workshop this summer. I always enjoy finding local authors and was intrigued by the plot summary. I try to read a few Christmas-themed books every December and I started with this one this year.

This true story takes the reader through the family’s journey to find the Christmas spirit. After the first gift, a poinsettia, appears, the family starts getting a small gift every day. There is a card with each gift, but it only says the gift is from “your true friends.” The family tries to solve the mystery and catch the gift-givers, but never does. The gifts end on Christmas as the 12th gift is given, but Joanne discovers they have given the family a 13th gift – joy!

This book was heartbreaking, difficult and wonderful. Joanne gives a front-row seat to her and her family’s grief. I learned to try and think of those who are hurting around the holidays and show them some extra love. Everyone will grieve in his or her own way, but they all need to know there are people who are around for them. Joanne finally tracks down the gift-givers years later and finds that the tradition goes back decades as a way to show hurting families love during the holidays.

I would recommend this book to anyone high school age or above as it deals with death and grieving. You’ll never forget this story – and it’s true!

Buy the book here (affiliate link). 


About Sarah Anne Carter

Sarah Anne Carter is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Family life keeps her busy, but any spare moment is spent reading, writing or thinking about plots for novels.