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The Christmas Letters [Kindle Edition]

Lee Smith
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's easier to believe in Santa Claus than in the premise of Smith's holiday novella. Employing the epistolary form that she used much more successfully in Fair and Tender Ladies, Smith provides a series of letters among three generations of women, aiming to create a record of a family's joys and tragedies, as well as a slice of social history from 1944 to 1996. Unfortunately, credibility is a casualty of the device, as we are asked to believe that close relatives living in neighboring Southern states would let a year go by without even the most basic communication about births, deaths and marriages. The letters recapitulate episodes that family members would surely have heard about before (one correspondent reminds her parents at great length about how she met her husband). In the era of telephones and cameras, it is highly unlikely that the information?both intimate and picayune?contained in these detailed missives would have awaited a seasonal newsletter. Recipes passed down through the decades, beginning with boiled custard and ending with an African dish from a woman in the Peace Corps, are meant to indicate changing social mores. But nothing here can surmount the awkward format of a book that is, in fact, as bland as boiled custard. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

One of our most accomplished authors scores again. As in Fair and Tender Ladies (LJ 9/15/88), Smith writes an epistolary, here in the form of Christmas greetings sent from North Carolina by female members of the Pickett family. In what they say?and don't say?these articulate, down-to-earth women preserve three generations of American experience. Birdie, a feisty World War II bride, records the challenges of leaving the farm to open a successful small business while raising a houseful of children. Birdie's oldest daughter, Mary, continues the story in the mid-Sixties, after dropping out of college to wed. She tracks 25 years of moves, from trailer to luxury home, from unexplained domesticity to problematic independence. Next, granddaughter Melanie picks up the tradition, hinting that the family writing talent will turn professional. The Picketts's joys, tragedies, recipes, and reflections make an affecting narrative that ends much too soon. Highly recommended.?Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 391 KB
  • Print Length: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (August 19, 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0094JB34K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,302 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a great book for Christmas Reading December 24, 2005
I received this book as a pre-Christmas book many years ago and have just finished reading it for maybe the fifth time just before Christmas. It is a very quick and engaging read.

The Christmas Letters recounts all of the bittersweet memories that surround Christmas. It is not necessarily all happy, but it is all very real. Maybe as I get older, the pathos of Christmas becomes more real - both the sadness associated with memories of the past which can no longer be recreated and the realization that we can only celebrate from that place where we currently live in our lives. When we are in good places, then Christmas is magical. When not, Christmas can be very difficult. Smith touches on both of these points.

I am a great fan of Lee Smith's books. I gave this one only 4 stars, but that is in relation to her other books. To me, her best is Fair and Tender Ladies, also written in letter form.

Christmas blessings to all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Christmas Letters... November 30, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For the most part I liked this book. It's the story of one family told through three generations of Christmas Letters (well, two really, the third generation only writes one letter). Now, it was very difficult for me to get past the feeling of...'why is all this stuff being written in x-mas letters, shouldn't the family have already known about all this stuff? Wouldn't you tell your family these things as they happen?'.

I know it was necessary to include these things in order for the reader to understand everything that's gone on in the family over the years, but it was very distracting. This said, I think this book would have been much better if it were formatted as a regular novel, not in Christmas letters. I believe it would have been a very interesting read.

But regardless, the story itself was good. It kept me turning the pages. I really enjoyed the second to last letter, where Mary (the second generation) sends out the REAL Christmas letter, not the superficial one that everyone gets saying all is peachy-keen and life couldn't be more perfect, blah, blah, blah. This letter tells us the 'good stuff'. I recommend this book as a very quick little Christmas read. It'll help you get into the Christmas spirit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it despite it's being an epistolary December 21, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm not usually a fan of epistolaries, and I agree with some of the reviews that point out, rightfully so, that relatives living in adjoining states would not need a Christmas letter to fill them in on important family events. That said, I give this author full credit for having written a novella that captivated me, more so for what I could read between the lines of those letters than for what was actually said. This is not a Christmas story, per se, but it is a delightful recording of the events that shaped family members and, perhaps, even eras in this country. This is one of those books that I'll plan on reading again at some point in the future.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A perfect way to get the Holiday Spirit December 26, 1996
By A Customer
Lee Smith's book is a touching journey through the hearts and minds of three generations of women. When the Southern grandmother takes her first bite of a bagel, and remarks "Whoever thinks this is good has never had a biscuit!," I howled. This is a great little book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written Verification of Memories February 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I will miss hearing about the lives of the women who wrote the Christmas letters in this book. I felt I had come to know them. The letters were sent to various recipients, which differed from year to year, so the content of each letter was chosen accordingly by its writer. Some items in the letters seemed to be included to remind the writer of experiences she did not want to forget.

My only complaint about this Kindle version is that the cover of the book as it appears in my carousel has NO WORDS at all. It has only an off-white linen appearance. Could I re-order this book at no charge and have it delivered to my Kindle with a cover that looks like the one pictured on this web site?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed this book December 21, 2003
The Christmas Letters is a short novella by Lee Smith; my Mamaw gave me a copy for Christmas and i read it in one sitting. I'd recommend it to anyone, but particularly to anyone who writes her/his own Christmas letters).
It's an epistolary novel told through the yearly Christmas letters of three generations of rural women, and spans the geography of West Virginia and North Carolina. The letters are somewhat typical of that sort of structure, recounting births and deaths and achievements, yet tell the story of the women's lives, their relationships, their struggles to cope with the hardships each generation is given--a husband off in WWII, a brother brokenly and miserably surviving Viet Nam, divorce, loss of a parent, a child leaving home and choosing a lifestyle you can't understand but try to accept. By the end, one of the letter-writers has come to a point where she addresses her letter frankly, and reveals the subtext behind all of her cheery soldier-on previous letters, and you can go back and see exactly how those emotions were definitely present beneath the surface of the writing of the earlier letters (some you'll pick up as you read them the first time around, others will be a surprise).
The book is a lovely quiet holiday read, and one that for me will take its place beside A Christmas Carol as a book to read every Christmas season, to remind me of what I hold dear about the holidays, an embracing of family, heritage, goodwill, short, the Christmas Spirit.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Lee Smith never disappoints
Loved the generational changes. How quickly our lives change
in each generation. Gave me much insight between my Grandmothers growing up years, My Mom's mine,
my... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sue Sauter
5.0 out of 5 stars Wholehearted five stars
I think I would have cried my way through this book at any age, the truths are there, strong, and plainly written.
Published 4 months ago by extra
5.0 out of 5 stars Lee Smith is the best!
Everything she writes tugs my heart strings. This little novella follows 3 generations of strong women through their own hard times, and draws parallels to each other. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Judith Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great read
This is such a "real" insight into Christmas letters. They(proper Christmas letters, that is) tell all the good stuff that does not reflect the writer's true feelings. Read more
Published 6 months ago by mosie
4.0 out of 5 stars What a nice Christmas suprise.
"The Christmas Letters" captures the southern tradition of writing holiday letters to family and friends. Such a treat to 'watch' a family over several generatuins.
Published 6 months ago by beth
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
I enjoyed the book once I understood the next generation was writing the letter. Well thought out for each generation.
Published 8 months ago by June M. Stevenson
5.0 out of 5 stars History of a family in Christmas Letters
Loved the book, which except for the locale, could have been my own family's chronicles. In fact, it motivated me to go back in a file cabinet, & find all the old xeroxed Christmas... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars All of a,sudden it ended!
I enjoyed the story but I was quite taken aback by how abruptly it ended. Wish it would have been longer
Published 12 months ago by Mary E. O'Shields
3.0 out of 5 stars The Christmas Letters
The book that will come from this book should be great. This seems like a spring board for a more developed novel.
Published 16 months ago by C. A. Urban
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This book was a nice fast read. Not sure if I would recommend to my friends or not but it was interesting.
Published 18 months ago by Tamela
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