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Christmas, Present Hardcover – October 31, 2006

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No heartstring goes untugged in this slim but moving Christmas story from award-winning journalist, screenwriter, bestselling novelist and children's book author Mitchard (Twelve Times Blessed; The Rest of Us; The Most Wanted). It's December 23, and Elliott Banner and his wife, Laura, are celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary with a romantic dinner at a good Italian restaurant and a performance of the Cirque du Soleil. Soon after the show, their car breaks down in a Boston tunnel, and Elliott's beloved is stricken with a crippling headache that sends them to a nearby hospital. After a physical exam and an MRI, compassionate, fatherly Dr. Campanile advises them to call the family together; Laura has a brain hemorrhage. "Now, how can I say this? It is too late. She will die, and I am sorry beyond an ability to tell you." Laura has 24 hours to live, which takes them to Christmas Eve. The clan gathers: Laura and Elliott's three young daughters, Annie, Rory and Amelia; Laura's mother, Miranda; her two sisters, Suzanne and Angela; and her feckless brother, Stephen. After a loving recap of a life well lived (including a surprise secret), everyone gets a final hug and a kiss from Laura. What could easily have become a quicksand of sentimentality is saved by Mitchard's straightforward writing, which is poignant rather than mawkish, sometimes mordant and, despite the theme of the story, surprisingly humorous. Laura does die, something the reader knows will happen from the very beginning. Her death is undeniably sad, but a final chapter offers the bereft Elliott and his three daughters the Christmas present Laura promised would be theirs: hope for the future.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

It's Christmas, and Elliot and Laura are driving home from celebrating their fourteenth wedding anniversary when their car breaks down. As they wait for a tow truck, Laura suddenly cries out in pain and begs to go to the hospital, saying that her head feels as though it's on fire. Elliot sits in the hospital, baffled by his wife's uncharacteristic response to what he's sure is only a migraine. Then the doctor arrives and gently informs him that an aneurysm has burst, and Laura will die in a matter of hours. Numb with shock and grief, Elliot gathers their family around her bedside for a last Christmas Eve together. Family catastrophes are Mitchard's stock-in-trade, and Laura's good-byes to Elliot and her daughters are rendered in the same probing and reflective dialogue Mitchard is known for. Ultimately, though, the book reads more like a sketch for a larger novel than a fully realized story; the anguish depicted in the hospital scenes is so palpably real that the resolution in the final chapter seems rushed and unconvincing. Expect high demand. Meredith Parets
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (October 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060565578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060565572
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,577,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacquelyn Mitchard was born in Chicago. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was published in 1996, becoming the first selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and a number one New York Times bestseller. Eight other novels, four children's books and six young adult novels followed, including The Midnight Twins, Still Summer, All We Know of Heaven, and The Breakdown Lane. A former daily newspaper reporter, Mitchard now is a contributing editor for Parade Magazine, and frequently writes for such publications as More magazine and Real Simple. Her essays and short stories have been widely anthologized. An adjunct professor in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Fairfield University, she lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their nine children

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I recently lost my mother to a disease that moved only slightly less rapidly than Mitchard's central character's, but the reality was much the same. The author manages to capture the pain, urgency and humor of such a time. Those last days with a loved one are both awful and wonderful. The holiday timing only adds to the poignant nature of the book. I also respect the author for the tight prose. Its hard to write a good, short book, but Mitchard manages it while retaining her trademark,every day realism. A smart, mature take on family and life. Just the read if you need a little soulful perspective when you return home from the Christmas bedlam at the shopping mall. Bravo.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dana Y. Bowles VINE VOICE on December 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This touching holiday story begins Elliot Banner's struggle with what to get his beloved wife Laura for their anniversary (which one is it? Is it the important one?), and finally settles on tickets to Cirque du Soleil and dinner at their favorite restaurant. At the conclusion of what would have otherwise been a perfect evening, tragedy begins to unfold in the form of an intense headache experienced by Laura after their car becomes disabled. Laura seemingly irrationally insists upon going to the hospital, where after a series of diagnostic tests, the news is given to them that Laura is dying, and that what is happening within her brain is inoperable. The doctor says that she has perhaps 8-12 hours to live....and so the family begins to gather. Although the ending is sad, the conclusion inescapable....Laura leaves her family with what the reader will see as her final and most precious gift to them...hope.

Enjoyable and a tear-jerker, readers should enjoy this tale of hope and a "life will go on" message, delivered during the holiday season.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By on December 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In the vein of Donna VanLiere's THE CHRISTMAS SHOES and Richard Paul Evans's THE CHRISTMAS BOX, bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard (THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN, A THEORY OF RELATIVITY) has penned a slim but poignant Christmas story that captures perfectly the true spirit of the season. Dramas of familial crises and grief are Mitchard's trademark fare, and this slender novella of love, loss and letting go is no exception.
CHRISTMAS, PRESENT expertly blends the sad and sentimental with the uplifting and inspiring, and somehow manages to be both heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time. Elliott and his wife of 14 years, Laura, are on their way home from their anniversary celebration two days before Christmas when a searing pain in Laura's head forces an abrupt visit to the local hospital. The pain turns out to be far more than an ordinary migraine and they soon learn the horrible truth that Laura has a fatal, inoperable brain hemorrhage that leaves her with mere hours to live.
As her family gathers around from near and far on Christmas Eve, Laura shares with them loving memories of a life well-lived and she bestows on them her blessings and hopes for the future. Her good-byes to her beloved husband and three daughters are particularly fraught with emotion. However we are saved from over-the-top sentimentality thanks to Laura's serene, reflective demeanor and Mitchard's straightforward prose. Laura's legacy to her shocked and grief-stricken family is giving them the gift and promise of the future by encouraging them to live life to the fullest in her absence. The final chapter provides an uplifting respite from the novel's weighty sadness, as we glimpse into the future and see Elliott and their daughters living out Laura's dying wish for them to visit Paris.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Judith Miller VINE VOICE on October 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
CHRISTMAS, PRESENT begins with Elliot Banner planning a very special wedding anniversary for his wife, Laura. He surprises her with tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil. It's just two days before their December 23rd anniversary and a few days before Christmas. Laura mentions that she has a headache, and on the way home their car breaks down in a busy tunnel. While they're waiting for a wrecker, the headache that Laura has been having escalates, and she becomes severely ill.

The story continues with a shocking diagnosis for Laura and a gathering of their children, Laura's siblings and mother at the hospital.

This is a very small book and a fast read. It's well written and although the title is appropriate, this is not your usual Christmas story. I do recommend this book, but some people may prefer not to read it until after Christmas. This is a serious and mind wrenching story!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this book, and couldn't understand the glowing praise it had garnered. I gave it 2 stars, because it was well written, but the story was brutal. The potential in the set up was there, but wasn't realized. Why was the surprising "secret" included? It didn't make me see the heroine as more human - it made me dislike her. Why did she keep sending people, e.g. her husband, her brother, on errands? That seemed cruel. The final chapter which could have been a balm, simply reinforced my impressions: this was a family which was brutal to each other and the death of the mother did nothing to change that.
I cannot recommend this book.
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