Holiday Review: The Thirteenth Gift

The Thirteenth Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. Copyright 2014.

In the fall of 1999, journalist Joanne Huist Smith’s husband passed away unexpectedly. In this memoir, she details how an anonymous gift left on the family’s doorstep during each of the twelve days leading up to Christmas helped make the holiday season more than bearable for her and her three children. Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, etc., they received one poinsettia, two bags of bows, three rolls of wrapping paper, four gift boxes, five angel gift cards, six holiday cups, seven golden apple ornaments, eight Christmas cookie cutters, nine holiday candles, ten paper doll Santas, eleven candy mice, and on the twelfth day, a miniature Christmas tree with twelve ornaments. Each gift came with a card signed, “Your true friends.”

At first, they tried to figure out who left the gifts, thinking it was someone they knew. Then, they realized the gift giver’s identity wasn’t important. The book has twelve chapters describing each day in the gift-giving scenario. In the thirteenth chapter, the author describes how over ten years later, she met the anonymous donors, complete strangers, who were the second generation of a trend that started back in the 1980’s.

This writer draws the reader into her story. Like Martin Sixsmith, author of Philomena, she writes terrific prose that make you forget she’s a journalist. I also like the way she illustrates the concept of paying it forward during the holiday season. However, I found the ending to be a bit of a disappointment. I guess I expected something more spectacular, but this is a true story, and as stated by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction, “You can’t make this stuff up.” To learn more about Joanne Huist Smith, go to .

Now, click below to hear me sing the song that inspired this gift giving idea. This is one of those songs I can practice until the cows come home and still mess up so I hope you enjoy listening to it.




Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

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Author: abbiejohnsontaylor

I'm the author of three novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. I'm visually impaired and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my totally blind late husband who was paralyzed by two strokes. Please visit my website at:

3 thoughts on “Holiday Review: The Thirteenth Gift”

  1. Christmas Greetings! Abbie–Thanks for reviewing another holiday book. I was also pleased to be able to listen to your singing of TWELVE DAYS which reminded me that when I was in grade school, the seventh-eight-grade teacher and principal taught a different version of the song. Unfortunately, I cannot remember all of the lines. A part of the lyrics were: “Two candy canes, and the good Bible of the Lord.” Yes, the Bible replaced the partridge in a pear tree. Have you ever sung this version? Merry Christmas! Alice


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