Friday, September 19, 2008

The Santa Letters

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. In fact, if you were to check my I-Tunes account you’d see that I have 6.3 hours of Christmas music loaded that I listen to year round.

I was quite thrilled then when I was asked to be part of a virtual tour for a new book called, The Santa Letters. My expectations for a Christmas story are high and this book did not disappoint. Stacy Gooch-Anderson has created a classic that will be read and re-read for years to come.

From the book’s jacket:

One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma Jensen, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in Christmas and in every other day of the year.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach – not her job, not her love for her family, and certainly not the season. The Jensen children understand that Christmas will be strained this year – all except 6-year-old McKenna. Of all the family, only she still believes in the magic of Christmas, and in miracles.

But that is about to change.

When an ornate letter and a mysterious package arrive on the doorstep, Emma and her sons find themselves joining McKenna on a magical journey to Christmas. Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the Jensens, and as the meaning of the Santa Letters unfold, the Jensens come to realize that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever – and that William may be closer than they think.

This year, the Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a Christmas experience that will show God’s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep.

The book grabbed my attention from the very beginning and didn’t let go until the last page. I went on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as I felt the Jensens’ grief and pain slowly replaced by hope and healing.

When I finished The Santa Letters I was convinced that it will quickly become a must have Christmas book for all LDS homes.

Let me pause briefly here to state that I’m an accountant by profession. Accordingly, I love to gather as much data as possible to see what the data tells me. Those stories are usually told by numbers on balance sheets and profit and loss statements. I approached this task with the same methodology.

After finishing the book and knowing what my impression was, I handed the book to my wife to see what she thought. I didn’t give her my feelings of the book, I wanted an unbiased opinion. She started the book Sunday morning.

At church that day, my wife served as a sign language interpreter during sacrament meeting. The sister that she interprets for left after sacrament meeting and I looked forward to actually being able to sit next to my wife and enjoy Gospel Doctrine class together. Though we sat together, she didn’t really pay much attention to me. She didn’t pay that much attention to the teacher either. While the rest of us studied the book of Alma, she had The Santa Letters opened in her lap as she contentedly continued on the journey Stacy Gooch-Anderson created for her.

My wife loves Gospel Doctrine class. She studies the scriptures voraciously and always has input for the weekly lessons. The fact that she took the first opportunity she had to start reading again validated my own thoughts of the book. Once you start reading it, you will not want to put it down.

So now I had two data points giving the same results. I was curious if the book would have appeal outside of the LDS community. There are definite ideas and concepts in the book that are very “Mormon.”

I took the book to work with me and asked my boss if she would do me a favor. She smiled and looked at me waiting to see what the favor would be. When I asked her to read the book she responded, “I hate to read.”

She continued, “You don’t understand Dan, I always have a million things going on at once. When I try to read a book, I find at the end of the page that my mind has wandered to those things and I have to re-read almost every page to absorb it. A normal book will take me about ten months to complete.”

When she saw that the book wasn’t too thick she reluctantly took it and said that she would give it a try. Her very first thoughts were that she didn’t like sentences that begin with the word, “And.” I never noticed them in the book, but she did.

However, she finished the book in less than a week and said that she enjoyed it very much. Like me, she said that there were parts of the story that brought her to tears. You can’t help but be moved by the tender portrayal of a family that is struggling with this kind of loss. They learned as a family that the Lord’s strengths are greater than their weaknesses. As they put their trust in Him, they, like us, can find the ability to overcome any trial or tribulation.

Lastly, let me make two recommendations for reading this book. First, make sure that you have a box of tissues nearby when you start. Second, it would probably be best if you didn’t start reading the book Sunday morning before church.


Stacy G. Anderson said...


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this story. It means the world to me that you and your wife would take the time to read it and then be a part of this tour.

I will be in Arizona in November for a family reunion, (most of my family lives there) and it would be a pleasure to meet both you and your wife.

All my best,

Dan Olsen said...

Thanks Stacy. The book is amazing. I'm looking forward to the sequel and hearing more about Guillermo's life.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Ah, Wendy . . . skipping out on gospel doctrine class. That's a high compliment for the book, but I worry about you . . . :)

What a great review, Dan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Dan Olsen said...

Wendy and I have moved several times typically due to my job.

However, every time we have moved somewhere, there was someone in our new ward that needed Wendy's ability to speak sign language.

I'm fairly coinvinced that the Lord changes my job every now and then so he can put Wendy where He needs her.