Saturday, December 26, 2009
Christmas Jars, by Jason F. Wright
This book starts out with a single woman having her annual dinner at a local fast food joint when she notices a baby in the bench behind her, alone. There's a note that says something to the effect of whoever holds my baby next, she's now in your care. This woman takes the child into her life, names her Hope, adopts her legally, and raises her. When Hope is five, her mother reveals why the bench is so special and that her real mother loved her so much and wanted a better life for her. She supports her in her ambition to become a news reporter and they are so happy together. One year, the mother reveals to her daughter that she has cancer. She doesn't live long after that, and dies on Christmas Eve. One year later, the daughter's out at the chicken place where her mother found her, the same place they eat every year at that time and comes home to her apartment to find out it's been robbed. During the investigation, she finds a jar left inside her door, but doesn't know who it's from. It's full of money. As an aspiring reporter for small columns in the local newspaper, she decides to investigate further, as she's found she's not been the only recipient of such a miraculous jar and she thinks this would make a great story, the one that will get her on the front page. She finds several families who refuse to give much information, wishing to leave the giver as an anonymous angel of sorts, until she finds the family that started it all. She tells a little lie to get into their lives and have her questions answered, and ends up falling in love with the family, and them with her. She finds out that they originally started the Christmas jar as a way for them to save money for Christmas presents every year. One year, though, while at the bank to cash in their coins, their daughter notices a woman crying on the curb outside and offers to give her their Christmas jar. The parents tearfully allow it, which is what the woman needed, as her abusive husband took all her money and left her pregnant with nothing. After that, they just kept giving Christmas jars every year and more and more people started to partake in the tradition. Hope thinks she's on to something big when a spotlight is run on her in the paper. She fears her secret of who she really is is out and the family will be angry as they think she's a college student writing a paper about their small family business, so she goes months without talking to them. One day, she finds herself in someone else's office looking for a package of jelly when the phone rings. It's a man who wants to run an obituary. She finds out it's the patriarch of this beloved family that has died and is heart-broken. Not knowing how to get back in touch with them to offer her condolences, she runs a front page article on this great man and a small piece of the legacy he and his family left behind with their very own Christmas jars. She then goes to the funeral, and then back to the family's house to see if she has been forgiven. They embrace her without any hesitation and confess that they hid the article from the father so he never even knew who she really was. Relieved a little, she leaves to have her annual dinner at the chicken place. After her departure, the family receives many visitors who saw the article and were touched by a Christmas jar of their very own, bringing a jar to the family who started it all. After all the visitors are gone, their front porch is covered in jars filled with money. Then, one final visitor knocks on the door. It's a woman with a very special story. After all is told, the family realizes she was the first woman they ever gave a Christmas jar to, the woman at the bank. She tells a story of leaving her precious baby on a bench in a chicken restaurant. Realizing who she is, they drive her to the chicken place to create a joyous and happy reunion with Hope, her daughter.
It's a sweet story that is very inspiring and touching to the very end. I'm glad I cheated a little and took the time to read it this Christmas season. :)