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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

Topics: Family and American South

Published: Workman eBooks on Aug 19, 2002
ISBN: 9781565128583
List price: $9.95
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Clear rating

Slow reading. Writing could have been better.

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Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a novella by the North Carolina author who wrote On Agate Hill and The Last Girls to name just a few. It tells the story of three generations of women through the annual Christmas letters they write to friends and family. I always enjoy reading books that are told through letters and/or diary entries. This is a new take on that format for me. It really worked well in this case. You'd think that you couldn't convey all that much about a family in a relatively short annual letter; however, Smith manages to paint a vivid picture of these characters and how their lives are intertwined over place and time. It begins with Birdie writing home to her family as she is spending her first days away from home with her in-laws while her new husband is away fighting in WWII. Smith captures the excitement and the fear in the young bride's words without being overly sentimental. Birdie describes how much she loves taking care of her new baby, Mary in subsequent letters.It's this same child that takes up writing Christmas letters for the family years later. Mary had always been a very intelligent girl and dreamed of going to college. However, she quits school to elope. The children soon begin to come and life takes over as it often does. The reader sees the passage of time in society as well as in the family as the letters continue throughout the years. Just as in real life, there are joys and heartbreaks along the way.It's Mary's daughter Melanie who takes up the post to write the Christmas letters when she comes of age. Though things have changed in many ways, they are still a family. As always, Lee Smith does a great job portraying these characters as real people that I easily identify with. This is a book that I'll probably revisit often at Christmas.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.

Reviews

Slow reading. Writing could have been better.

Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a novella by the North Carolina author who wrote On Agate Hill and The Last Girls to name just a few. It tells the story of three generations of women through the annual Christmas letters they write to friends and family. I always enjoy reading books that are told through letters and/or diary entries. This is a new take on that format for me. It really worked well in this case. You'd think that you couldn't convey all that much about a family in a relatively short annual letter; however, Smith manages to paint a vivid picture of these characters and how their lives are intertwined over place and time. It begins with Birdie writing home to her family as she is spending her first days away from home with her in-laws while her new husband is away fighting in WWII. Smith captures the excitement and the fear in the young bride's words without being overly sentimental. Birdie describes how much she loves taking care of her new baby, Mary in subsequent letters.It's this same child that takes up writing Christmas letters for the family years later. Mary had always been a very intelligent girl and dreamed of going to college. However, she quits school to elope. The children soon begin to come and life takes over as it often does. The reader sees the passage of time in society as well as in the family as the letters continue throughout the years. Just as in real life, there are joys and heartbreaks along the way.It's Mary's daughter Melanie who takes up the post to write the Christmas letters when she comes of age. Though things have changed in many ways, they are still a family. As always, Lee Smith does a great job portraying these characters as real people that I easily identify with. This is a book that I'll probably revisit often at Christmas.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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