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Review of The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson

I just read the most incredible book entitled The Santa Letters (I will link this to Amazon as soon as it is available) by Stacy Gooch-Anderson, scheduled for publication in September of 2008 by Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort.

What a fantastic story! I thought to pick it up and read the first couple of chapters while I was waiting for my husband to get ready. The book went everywhere with us that day. It took me about 2 to 3 hours to finish it. I kept my nose in the book as we drove to the hospital for Alvin's check up, scarcely looking up as we pulled into the building where the Transplant Team is located.

Here's a little synopsis of the story:
One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in life itself.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into depression that nothing can breach--not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season. Money is tight, and emotions are taut, and this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience. Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same.

But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change. Each day, a package and a letter signed "Santa" arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever, and that God's love can heal any wound, no matter how deep.

The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all.
This is a book that will require the reader to have a box of tissues close at hand because you're going to laugh and you're going to cry. William being killed by a drunk driver while on his way home from work hit very close to home for me, having lost my brother-in-law that way. So it's possible my emotions were a little closer to the surface from the very beginning. But wow, this book is worth the read, and the tears.

It is an uplifting story that takes the reader through a journey from a dark and desperate place each of us must face eventually in life. Stacy Gooch-Anderson tells an engaging story which inspires the reader to be a better, more considerate person. The story is funny, sad, and poignant, taking this family from despair to peace over the course of the two weeks prior to Christmas.

This is a must-buy as well as a must-have for your home library. Every member of the family will enjoy this book. So mark it on your calendar now.

I'm so pleased Stacy decided to drop by Dream a little dream . . . and talk with us a little.

It is a fact that drunk drivers kill a lot of people. Why did you decide to weave your story around a tragedy such as this?
There are two reasons.....

1.) I have a very good friend who lost both of her parents in an accident where the young woman was on a cell phone distracted and ran a red light killing them both. It was heartbreaking for the family especially when they realized that there were no laws governing such occurrences. If a person is killed while the one causing the accident is on a cell phone, it is classified as nothing more than an accident due to distracted driving - same as eating a hamburger or putting on mascara. But with cell phone usage and text messaging on the rise, it was a subject that I felt needed some light shed on it so people can think about the consequences to what may seem to be 'innocent actions'.

-- and,

2.) Since there are no laws governing cell phone usage (two states are trying but finding much resistance from lobbyists), it was a good scenario in which Guillermo would feel cheated and have a hard time reconciling his loss with his sense of justice.

Was there a particular reason you centered this story around Christmas?

A few years back, my family went through a very difficult time when we found out that two of my sons had been caught in a sexually abusive situation. We'd spent so much money on legal bills to protect their rights and counseling to help them through it that there was not much left over for Christmas. I already felt like a failure as a mother for not having been able to protect them and I did not want Christmas that year to be ruined by the tragedies we'd already faced.

I turned to my scriptures for peace and the message I got was to remember the mission and life of the Savior. I wanted to find a way to share what I had learned with my family and combine all the best of Christmas so I came upon the plan of a "Santa Letter Journey" since my youngest son at that point was five and still needed to feel the magic of Christmas.

That year, instead of celebrating the commercial side of Christmas, we, as a family, found healing through remembering the true gifts, of not only Christmas, but life as "Santa" delivered our letters and surprises every night. And my sons came to understand that they were loved and cherished and could make it through anything if we pulled together as a family. We still cherish the original letters and read them at Christmas time.

That same year, I had a friend who found out what we had been doing and told me that she was going to clobber me if I didn't share the story and challenged me to help others find the true 'gifts' of Christmas. I took her up on it and The Santa Letters was born.

In your book, the Jensen family undergoes the loss of their husband and father. You have interesting interactions within the family, how important do you believe the family unit is within the fabric of modern society.

The best way to explain that is to think of someone trying to stand a toothpick up on its own - it's going to be hard to do without some kind of support system. However, if you bundle a bunch of toothpicks together, they will easily stand and further more, they will be much, much harder to break.

Strong family units are integral to the strength of the individual and with strong individuals bundling together to form secure foundations, we can only grow a stronger community and nation since the strength of such rests upon having rock solid foundations.

Unfortunately,there are some whose cache of blessings do not include a strong family. But those individuals can still create a "bundled" unit gaining strength by creating a family of choice. Although we all are part of a family by blood ties, others can additionally create families by choice in terms of good mentors, friends, teachers, neighbors and advisors until they are able to marry and create their own family units.

This is a very uplifting story, although I went through a lot of tissues to get through it, what message do you want your readers to take away with them?

Hope, forgiveness, healing and redemption are there for anyone who wishes to claim them. The only difference between a lump of coal and a diamond is the heat and pressure it can take - aspire to be something truly shiny!

And, it is impossible to find Christmas under the tree unless one first finds Christmas in their heart. We do this by simply remembering the first fruits and the true gifts of the season.

Have you written other books?

Yes, "Life is Tough - I Doubt I'll Make it Out Alive (Life's Lessons Learned Through Laughter)" will be out March of 2009 in time for Mother's Day and "The Legend of the Star" will be out for Christmas 2009.

I am also working on the companion book to "The Santa Letters" which tells more of Guillermo's story, meets up with the fateful night of the accident and then tells of his redemption. All of the projects I am working on or have completed can be seen on my website.

Where can this book be purchased?

It is available at all bookstores nationwide including Barnes and Noble, Boarders, B. Dalton, Walden Books, Deseret Book, Seagull, Wal-Mart amongst others and online at Amazon.com.

Where can people find out more about you, Stacy?

At my websites, www.stacyganderson.com or www.thesantaletters.org my publisher's website at or at my blog.

Stacy, thanks for dropping by. Let me just say it one more time, this book is a must buy. I absolutely loved every single page. It does teach powerful lessons of hope, forgiveness and love.

This book definitely gets two very big thumbs up!

The Santa Letters is eligible for a Whitney Award. Once you've read it, go and nominate the book at the Whitney Award website. It is a very simple process. Simply follow the step by step directions.
Review of The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson Review of The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson Reviewed by Candace Salima on Friday, July 25, 2008 Rating: 5