[TLC Blog Tour&Review] The Secret Gift by Ted Gup

Posted 30 November, 2010 by Molly(Cover To Cover Cafe) in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

About the Book:
• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: The Penguin Press HC (November 1, 2010)

An inspiring account of America at its worst-and Americans at their best-woven from the stories of Depression-era families who were helped by gifts from the author’s generous and secretive grandfather.

Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered $10, no strings attached, to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author’s grandfather Sam Stone was inspired to place this ad and assist his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever witness.

Moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope contained in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase 75 years later, Ted Gup initially set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives all over the country who could help him flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that Mr B. Virdot’s gift had on each family. Many people yearned for bread, coal, or other necessities, but many others received money from B. Virdot for more fanciful items-a toy horse, say, or a set of encyclopedias. As Gup’s investigations revealed, all these things had the power to turn people’s lives around- even to save them.

But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable- retiree persona he’d always shown his grandson. Gup unearths deeply buried details about Sam’s life-from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to felonious efforts to hide his immigrant origins from U.S. officials-that help explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need. Drawing on his unique find and his award-winning reportorial gifts, Ted Gup solves a singular family mystery even while he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. In A Secret Gift, he weaves these revelations seamlessly into a tapestry of Depression-era America, which will fascinate and inspire in equal measure.

About the Author:

Ted Gup was born and raised in Ohio, where his ancestors first settled some 150 years earlier. Since August, 2009, he has been Professor and Chair of the Department of Journalism at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Gup is the author of two previous books: Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life (2007), winner of the Shorenstein Book Prize from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the bestselling The Book of Honor: Covert Lives And Classified Deaths At The CIA (2000).

A former investigative reporter for The Washington Post and Time magazine, he was the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism at Case Western Reserve University from 1999-2009. Gup has also taught at Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. He has been a guest on numerous television and radio news programs and has written for a wide range of publications, including Smithsonian,National Geographic, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Slate, Salon, GQ, Mother Jones,Columbia Journalism Review, Newsweek, USA Today, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among others.

Gup has been a Pulitzer finalist and recipient of numerous awards, including the George Polk Award. He has been a grantee of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a Fellow of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics & Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fulbright Scholar. He and his wife live in Boston, Massachusetts and Bucksport, Maine.

My Review:
Reading The Secret Gift, put me in remembrance of Jason Wright’s Christmas Jars. The way it’s written, the theme, and outcome. However, I can’t fully compare the two because the stories ARE different and, of course, one is bigger than the other. The time eras are also different. It’s just the meaning behind the story and the emotions that I feel as I read them both. The Secret Gift is a life changing book. So much so, that I feel this book TOPS Christmas Jars. Simply put: I loved this book.

Written about one of THE Hardest Times in American history, The Great Depression was so terrible for many, many people. Especially around the holidays. The historical, accurate details written about Ted Gup’s family secret is absolutely amazing. While this was a true story, this book read like a wonderful fictional novel. It wasn’t boring, it had pictures of the families from this horrific time in history, and it was emotional for me to read. I love when a memoir can be read like a fiction book. Ted Gup captures every emotion known to man-hunger, sadness, loneliness, heartache, anger, faith, love, happiness and hope- in this wonderfully written book. Gup was able to truly capture the events during The Great Depression in Canton, Ohio. The effect, during a holiday season, really took a toll on my heart. It was sad to read about the families and how many of them had no homes or clothes…and what the banks did was just horrible! This book really brought into perspective what went on during that time, especially since I had grandparents living during that time. But, through all this sadness and hardships, a holiday miracle took place that year, all because of a wonderful gift of a stranger.

In all honesty, this is a book that I would have seen in a bookstore and passed right by. However, after reading this emotional 5 star book, I would have been missing out. Through one man’s gift during hard times, a lesson of love and hope and kindness is woven through out.  A pay-it-forward sort of act. I highly, highly recommend that you read this life changing book. I’m glad I had the chance to review this book. Just take warning: have many, many tissues handy for this book!

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*This book was provided for review by TLC Book Tours*

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