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A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of t he Great Depression Hardcover – October 28, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
When I read this well-written, eloquent book, it brought tears to my eyes. And, I'm not a woman given to tears. Author Ted Gup takes us back to a time that is, in many ways, being repeated even now. So, it's timely. And yet, it's history. A moving, terrible history. It's hard to read about it. It must have been total hell to live it.
Gup interviewed about five hundred descendants --- "many of them multiple times."
There are many books written about the Depression economy. We've tried to learn what happened to cause the Depression and who or what caused it to finally lift. Though we still don't really have all those answers, we do have the opportunity to study it.
But the people who suffered through it are not in those books for the most part. In this book, however, they're the stars. We feel their suffering and understand why a generation was like it was and how it produced yet another generation that was similar.
But it's more than even that. It's a mystery. The author discovers his own grandfather was the mystery-giver of $750 in anonymous money given in $5 checks in 1933.
Why did his grandfather, Sam Stone, do it? And why did he choose to be anonymous and indeed was for 75 years? The author didn't find all the answers but he found many that surprised even him. He found out things about his grandfather he never knew.Read more ›
Imagine for a moment working hard, paying bills promptly, and putting money regularly into the savings bank. Then suddenly you lost your job. There was no unemployment insurance. You go to the bank and find it closed with all your savings gone. There is no FDIC. You try to sell your belongings. Sometimes this will feed the family for a while. Once your furniture is gone, and your house repossessed, and you are living as a whole family without heat or a bed in a room somewhere. Five dollars sometimes gave people enough hope to save them from suicide. Sometimes it meant an orange and a pair of shoes.
Ted Gup found descendants of the people his grand father had helped. He even found one still living who could remember the help. He followed up every one of his grandfather's checks, a tremendous task in itself.
But equally important he learned that his generous life affirming grandfather was an illegal alien who loved his adopted country with fear and passion.
This is an elegant book that bring to life early 20th century history. Read it please, and be glad for our safety nets no matter how inadequate they may be. It was once so much worse.
A SECRET GIFT should have been a really wonderful, profound reading experience. But the author, who is described as an "award winning" investigative reporter, produced a meandering, piecemeal semi-memoir. The brief article in SMITHSONIAN led me to believe Mr. Gup was a good writer, but this book badly needed strong editing. The stories of the families who were helped by Sam Stone's generosity, and Sam Stone's own life story, are fascinating and heartbreaking. But the writing just plods along when it should soar. The topheavy 20-word title should have tipped me off.
I thought Mr. Gup's handling of parallels between the Great Depression and the continuing economic crisis of today was heavy handed, and frankly, his continuous effort to link the two distinct eras of economic crisis dragged the book down.
I have to give A SECRET GIFT three stars for the heartwrenching appeal of the stories of families assisted by Sam Stone's generosity, which Mr. Gup does an admirable job of uncovering. In that respect, his investigative skills are well applied. Yet, his style or manner of bringing these personal stories to the reader is so blah - such a static, uninvolved, almost-recitation of facts and dates, that even these left me a little cold and disappointed.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was interesting reading about the depression era but after a while it started repeating. Every letter written was echoing all the others.Published 9 days ago by Amazon Sanborn
A unique glimpse and a period of American history we should all know more about. Beautifully written.Published 1 month ago by Judy H
I thought this was a historically most interesting and very human book. Loved it. Have friends who got bored with the letters, but I thought every story therein was valuable.Published 3 months ago by Classical Granny
The book is set in the Great Depression and one man decided to hand out anonymously $5 gifts to needy people. This is probably like $100 today. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Susan Johnson
Thought provoking but not an easy read. So many names it became a little confusing. Some very interesting facts about the depression.Published 6 months ago by Barbara Oehler
This is one of the best books I've ever read. The fact that his grandson discovered him through these letters is very touching. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Escher
It was as much about himself as it was about charity. I think he should have just given the money to his church and let them disperse it... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Thomas I.