Thursday, January 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Christmas Letters by Lee Smith


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In The Christmas Letters, three generations of women reveal their stories of love and marriage in the letters they write to family and friends during the holidays. It's a down-home Christmas story about tradition, family, and the shared experiences of women.

Here, in a letter of her own, Lee Smith explains how she was inspired to write this celebrated epistolary novel:

Dear Friends,

Like me, you probably get Christmas letters every year. I read every word and save every letter. Because every Christmas letter is the story of a life, and what story can be more interesting than the story of our lives? Often, it is the story of an entire family. But you also have to read between the lines with Christmas letters. Sometimes, what is not said is even more important than what is on the page.

In The Christmas Letters, I have used this familiar format to illumine the lives, hopes, dreams, and disappointments of three generations of American women. Much of the story of The Christmas Letters is also told through shared recipes. As Mary, my favorite character, says, "I feel as if I have written out my life story in recipes! The Cool Whip and mushroom soup years, the hibachi and fondue period, then the quiche and crepes phase, and now it's these salsa years."

I wrote this little book for the same reason I write to my friends and relatives every holiday--Christmas letters give us a chance to remember and celebrate who we are.

With warmest greetings, Lee Smith

MY REVIEW:

I thought this would be a good book to read over Christmas.  It was interesting enough that I was able to finish it, but I wouldn't recommend it for a few reasons:

  1. There is a lack of character development, so it was hard to really care about the women writing the letters or the family members they were writing about.  
  2. The time lapse between letters was too long (as in a decade or more at a time).  This kind of ties in with #1 -- more letters/content to fill in the space would have helped with character development and connection for the reader. 
  3. Phrases like "I apologize for not sending a letter the last few years" and "my life is just so busy" got very repetitive and annoying.  Realistically those probably are phrases contained in most Christmas letters written by women/mothers but, for me, it just got old.  This also ties in with #2 -- if there had been more content to fill the spaces in between the letters, then every letter wouldn't have needed to start with one (or both) of those two phrases.