There are three kinds of broken hearts. There is the broken heart that comes from our own sins and misdeeds, when our actions leave us unsettled within and miserable. There is the broken heart that comes when someone else does something to us that causes us great pain and sorrow through no fault of our own. And there is the broken heart that simply comes from sad or tragic experience in life. However a heart breaks, the ache is real, and can have lasting consequence. But it doesn't have to.
The Santa Letters, written by Stacy Gooch-Anderson, tells the story of Emma Jensen and her four children, who lost their husband and father to a hit-and-run driver and have never quite been the same. Emma is especially shaken because William was the love of her life, and she is now left to shoulder the burdens that come with emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially sustaining her family without him, and the tragic way that he was taken from her, at Christmastime, no less, has made it difficult for her to find forgiveness and healing. Her children feel her depression and her sadness, and as Christmas comes around again, the one year anniversary of William's death, the family has accepted the fact that there won't be much of a celebration this year. All except McKenna, however, the youngest Jensen child, who maintains a spirit of faith and belief in the magic of Christmas. She has asked Santa for her Daddy to come home for Christmas.
And then a letter appears on the doorstep. A beautiful letter, embossed and sealed with wax bearing the initials "S.C." The letter acknowledges the grief that the family has experienced, but offers hope in renewed happiness and peace. It is signed, "Loving always, Santa". And each day, for twelve days, packages and more letters arrive, inviting the family to recognize one of the gifts of Christmas, such as music, traditions, laughter, good cheer, and service, and including the items necessary for their family to enjoy togetherness, and launch them onto a journey that just may change life for the Jensen's.
I'm a sucker for a Christmas story. This one is easily sappy and sweet enough that as I read I envisioned a Hallmark Christmas movie being played out before me. It has all the right ingredients for tears, laughs, and some personal introspection, which is always the best part for me. It would make a great family read-aloud. I especially like that at the end of the book, the author includes a list of possible things to add to a "Santa's Survival Kit", which would make great family gifts to give at the holidays. Added to that, on the website launched just for this project, http://www.thesantaletters.org/, there are sample letters to print out and other ideas so that you can be a secret Santa too, and bless another family the way that the Jensen's were blessed in the story. Great touch. I can see "The Santa Letters" being a really fun project idea for families that I'm sure will gain popularity as the tradition of the story spreads each year.
Broken hearts hurt. I've experienced all three kinds of broken hearts, and they all result in real pain. But I've also experienced healing, and the effects of it are so welcoming and soothing, that they change the way that life is viewed from there on out. The Santa Letters brought that gift of healing to the Jensen family, most appropriately at Christmastime, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, the supreme source of all healing, all forgiveness, and all miracles.
To learn more about the author, visit her blog here. Or, to buy the book, find it, among other places, here.
And thanks to Tristi Pinkston for asking me to review this sure-to-be classic!