Title: The Hundred Gifts
Author: Jennifer Scott
Published: October 2015, NAL
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
The national bestselling author of The Sister Season shares a new novel about a woman who discovers the spirit of the season is truly in the giving....
With the holidays around the corner, empty-nester Bren Epperson realizes that for the first time in decades, she has no large family to cook for, no celebration to create. So she starts teaching a holiday cooking class, and it’s a hit—until Virginia Mash, the old lady upstairs, bursts in complaining. Rather than retaliate, Bren suggests that the class shower Virginia with kindness—and give her one hundred gifts. So they embark on the plan to lift a heart. Along the way, amidst the knitting and the making and the baking, they’ll discover the best gifts can’t be bought and family celebrations can be reborn.
It's no surprise around here that THE HUNDRED GIFTS is the second holiday-centered novel I've written. I love the holidays. I love the decorations and the music and the food. I love the meaning behind it all, the hope for peace on earth, the silent nights. The gift wrap and the cheerful cards. I even love the snow (if we're lucky enough) and the shopping (and I am so not a shopper!).
But it's not lost on me that the holidays are also filled to the brim with pressure. And stress. And stressful pressure. And pressurey stress.
After all, we have to make it perfect. Make everyone happy.
There's the pressure to prepare everyone's favorites - this kid's favorite cookies, and that aunt's favorite side dish, and it just wouldn't be the holidays without your super secret recipe (that you wish you'd never made in the first place because it's so darned complicated and you will nevre get out of making it again for as long as you live).
There's pressure to buy the perfect gifts, which just seem to get more and more expensive every year. And isn't there always that one person on your list who just has it all already? And another one who truly wants nothing. And another who is so pickly you know you'll never get it right anyway. And, of course, that gift that you can find nowhere (it's always the one your kid wants more than anything in the world) (Oh yes, I'm looking at you, Tickle Me Elmo).
There's the stress of going to all the concerts and pageants and shows. Trekking through the cold and maybe even the snow, then melting in a crowded, overheated auditorium while you listen to another kindergarten rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and pretend that you didn't just see that one kid wipe his nose with the same hand he's now holding your child's hand with.
And there are the million tiny pressures that are unique to you. Relatives who don't get along, little dramas, big dramas, the friend who unexpectly gifts you on Christmas Eve and you have nothing to gift back...
In THE HUNDRED GIFTS, Bren Epperson is feeling a different kind of pressure. And a ton of stress. All she wants to have is a Christmas - perfect or otherwise - but it seems impossible with her kids living far away, her husband wrapped up in his midlife crisis du jour, and her own mother jetting of to Vegas to celebrate. Bren is lonely. She feels forgotten. She feels useless. She feels bored.
Fortunately, through a cooking instructor gig that she is only sort of qualified for, Bren is able to come together with a bunch of strangers, all of whom are feeling stress and pressure of their own, to reach out to someone who desperately needs a showing of love in her life.
In the end, all this pressure and stress is really pretty silly. We put it on ourselves. If there is no such thing as perfection (and there is not), there is really no such thing as holiday perfection. Our cookies get burned and our trees get knocked over by the cat and our Bing Crosby CD gets scratched. We run out of money and out of time and out of patience. Someone gets the stomach flu. There are arguments and hurt feelings and awkwardness. There's, well...life. And the little stressors that feel little in ordinary life feel so much bigger when we're striving for the perfection of the holidays.
It isn't until Bren Epperson lets go of her idea of perfect that she begins to understand this lesson. This leaves her open to seeing the "real meaning" of Christmas. After all, the true gifts of the holidays are those of the heart. No pressure, no stress necessary.
Thank you Jennifer for sharing this...I know it's quite easy to get caught up in the stress of wanting that perfect Christmas. I'm looking forward to reading this!!!
Giveaway Details - (US only)
Thanks to the publisher, one reader can win a copy of The Hundred Gifts by Jennifer Scott. To enter this giveaway, please fill out the form by November 23rd.
This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends November 23d.