Monday, November 08, 2010

The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett

The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett
Copyright 2010
Burgess Adams Publishing - Seasonal/Fiction
139 pages

As The Christmas Gift opens, a businessman is sitting in his lawyer's office. Red with anger over something that offended him and eager to sue, the man's lawyer asks him to listen to a story before he makes a decision about whether or not to proceed with legal action.

The story the lawyer shares is the tale of Ben and Scott, two sixth-grade boys. Scott's family moves frequently and he blends into new groups with relative ease. But, when he moves to a new town and finds himself the target of a bully named Ben he becomes angry enough to say something cruel. Ben has taunted Scott and done numerous things that offended him, but the look on Ben's face when Scott's speaks his mind is obviously a look of pain.

Scott's a good kid and he feels bad about having obviously hurt someone. Bully or not, he decides Ben deserves an apology. What he finds when he goes to apologize is that an apology can be much more powerful than he realized. Ben not only forgives Scott, but they become the best of friends.

I won't share why Ben acted out or how the story ends, to avoid spoiling it for anyone, but I really thought it was well done.

What I love about this book:

The Christmas Gift is essentially a story of what happens when someone takes the time to apologize and listen to the other person's side, even when it seems as if they don't deserve to be heard. I read The Christmas Gift several weeks ago, during the week that several suicides caused by bullying (or, in the case of the gay student who was filmed, a tremendously cruel invasion of privacy) were in the news. We've dealt with our share of bullies and one thing I've learned from our variety of experiences is that there are different reasons people become bullies and some bullies simply act out in order to seek attention.

That's the case in The Christmas Gift. Ben isn't a bad person; he just doesn't have any genuine friends and picking on people is his way of getting attention. This is, I guess, the other side of bullying, the side in which a little kindness extended to the bully, of all people, goes a long way.

Although the circumstances are slightly different and The Christmas Gift is a much more heart-tugging story, it rang true to one of our own bullying experiences so I didn't find it sappy or difficult to believe, as I often do with similar books that are basically lessons in strength of character. My eldest son (when he was around kindergarten age) once became best friends with a little boy who bullied him, simply by firmly stating that he wasn't going to tolerate being hit and walking away. The young bully didn't realize his behavior was inappropriate and really just wanted a playmate. He apologized and promised not to hit, again, if my son would come back to the sandbox (our townhouses opened onto a shared courtyard). Both boys and at least one young mother learned an important lesson in behavior and friendship.

What I disliked about the book:

Very little. It is pretty predictable. But, it moved me to tears and touched me deeply. I didn't mind the predictability at all.

The bottom line:

A lovely, touching story of kindness, friendship and the power of the words, "I'm sorry." I absolutely adore a good, heart-warming story at Christmas and The Christmas Gift is perfect. I'd particularly recommend The Christmas Gift to readers who enjoy Christmas books by Donna Van Liere, Debbie Macomber or Richard Paul Evans.

A little Monday Malarkey:

I will not tell the world what my husband did to my car windshield. I will not tell the world what my husband did. I won't, I won't. But, I'm getting a new windshield, this week. Silly husband. We've got to work on that klutz problem.

Reading update:

Boy, am I sucking at reading, this month. Wake by Lisa McMann was the only grown-upish (YA, awfully short) book I managed to finish, last week. I could blame it on physical therapy, which does shoot a 3-hour hole in 2 of my days, but it was really the shopping and zipping over to visit Kiddo afterwards that did me in, wore me flat, kicked a hole in my reading time by making my eyes blur and all that.

As to the books with bookmarks in them . . . sigh. I have enjoyed the little I've read of each but must confess that Désirée is the only in-progress title I've really touched, this past week. And, since I'm in a YA mood (and busy, busy, busy) I haven't gotten very far on that. I might have to declare Wednesday a Personal Readathon Day, for the sake of finishing a few books.

Just walked in:

A big bag of library books. Oh, no!!! I do not need to bring home library books!!! I'm so not going to get to them. I already know that. Someone swat me (a virtual swat will do, thank you). I did, however, also check out my first audio book, ever, ever. I'm figuring I should make good use of my car time on physical therapy days. I checked out Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, which is highly recommended by Tammy. And, I donated 10 books, 3 of which were Very Large. So, that's good. There is much book purging to be done.

Gotta dash. Must read and possibly extract Isabel's claws from the window screen. Silly little kitty. If she knocks the screen out of the window, we are both going to be so bummed. It's pleasant outside, but judging from the way she bodily flung herself at the window when Vampire Kitty walked by, I don't think she'd really like to spend much time in the great outdoors.

Any great malarkey happening in your life, this week?

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  1. I drove by the library today and returned the one and only book I had checked out (for a book club read). I forced myself to drop it in the outside drop box and did not go inside. It just about killed me. But I know I'd grab a bunch of books and they'd wind up sitting on a table for 3 weeks. It's not easy being disciplined, is it?!

  2. I generally don't like a predictable book, but it doesn't bother me at all for holiday books - in fact, I find it rather comforting.

  3. Les,

    Well, I can't do that because every time I put a book in the library drop box, I end up getting a letter saying I didn't return it. I go in and make them check in the books in front of me, so I can hear the little peep noise that means the book has been checked in. That's one of many reasons I seldom go to the library. But, I'm in purge mode and I tend to browse while I'm there. Discipline? I need some of that!


    It really depends on the book, whether I mind predictability. If I'm invested in the characters or enjoying the book so much I can't bear to put it aside, a little bit of predictability doesn't bother me too much. That's a good thought, though. Christmas books are really supposed to be comfort reads, in my humble opinion, so I suppose it can be a good thing for them to be predictable. I'd never thought about that!


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