This book ended up being a far more emotional read for me than I expected. Reading these letters (a lot of them from parents worried about how to feed their children or give them anything for Christmas) when the current economy has not been at all kind to us was, in many ways, heart-wrenching.
But at the same time, what a reaffirmation of how blessed we are!
When Ted Gup received a suitcase of papers that were his grandparents' it took him a while to realize the treasure trove he had inherited. Decades before, Mr. B. Virdot had put an ad in the Canton newspaper saying that he would like, anonymously, to bless the lives of 75 local families with $10 each. (Mr. B. Virdot was a pseudonym.) The year was 1933 and it was almost Christmas. The response was overwhelming and in the end he gave $5 each to 150 families.
How little $5 sounds today, and yet back then it could buy food for a week or more, pay rent, buy the family shoes, or a gift for each child for Christmas.
When Ted Gup received the suitcase and started looking through its contents, he found 150 letters, canceled checks to each writer and many thank you notes. The identity of Mr. B. Virdot was finally clear-- his grandfather.
This book is an exploration not only of those letters, but of the man who prompted them. An interesting investigation into a life built, in many ways, upon lies. I can fully understand Gup's frustration with researching his grandfather's life-- I've found many deceptions and falsified documents in my own family history.
The only real flaws of this book are some repetitive sections and the fact that you can never completely uncover someone's history when they've tried so hard to erase it. (The second, naturally, is not the author's fault.)
Overall, a fascinating read, much quicker than I expected.
You can learn more at the Secret Gift book website.
(This book is one of the Book Group books I hadn't read yet. I'm catching up!)