A Secret Gift

Thoughts   A Secret Gift by Ted Gup, The Penguin Press 2010, 346 pages

***   Please click on the book cover image or this line to go to the TLC Book Tour‘s dedicated pages ***

MOTIVATION for READING:     I responded to a Twitter request for tour hosts.      Timing was good for me to read this by today (except I had Dec 12 in my planner – why did I have that?!  oh well.)   I was ready to read more about the Depression era and it truly was a well-crafted memoir exploring family, a town and a particular challenging piece of history:  the Hard Times.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Mr. Gup was given an unusual piece of luggage that had belonged to his grandfather and he wondered about it.   I do that a lot;  WONDER about stuff, especially items that have been passed down through my family and also about buildings.   But not buildings that have been passed down through the family – I don’t have any of those.   (These points ARE related.)      But I do wonder…   “How did this one item come to be in my grand_____’s possession?   What were her thoughts on it?     Did you know it would come into my hands?     Was it special to her in some way?”     I’ll never know.    It’s too late to find out.

But Ted Gup, being a skilled professional researcher, investigative journalist and writer was able to find out SO MUCH!

The suitcase contained letters and newspaper clippings from 1935 that told a story of one man giving away money to hard-pressed families in need and keeping it all secret.   These letters were  addressed to a name Gup didn’t recognize; fortunately his mother did know the name but not much else.  He had to dig and find exactly what this collection was about and thus unraveled a mystery and triggered the project idea for this book.   (Though I don’t think at that time he had a book in mind.)    He was just hoping to learn more about his grandfather.


WHAT I LIKED:    One of the best things about this book was personal for ME.    My mom and dad were here for Thanksgiving and my mother hijacked this book (while I was in the middle of it!) and she liked it, too.   But the BEST THING?   We talked about OUR HISTORY.   What she could remember about her parents and the Depression and how people DIDN’T REALLY TALK ABOUT IT and how each generation has a different approach to learning about this time.   It was all quite fascinating.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:   Can’t think of a thing!   I loved the fact that it had photos.  I appreciated that Mr. Gup was honest about exposing some truths he found about his family that may not have been positive.    I admired the look into religious animosity and how the gift transcended that.

MORE ABOUT BUILDINGS:   I wish I could say I knew Canton, Ohio which is where Gup’s grandfather lived at the time.   I really enjoyed the descriptions of the town and buildings, then and now.   This is one of those things I wonder about – I love old buildings and like to imagine when it was built, who enjoyed it, etc and then some.      The book doesn’t go into too much depth but I’m glad it was included.

The stories of the people who asked for the cash and what happened to the families since were wonderful.  Some were sad, some were happy and it was just.  INTERESTING.  I’m glad I read this book.

RATING:    FOUR SLICES OF PIE.    My mom gave it 4 stars, too.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

17 thoughts on “A Secret Gift

    1. Kathy, it is interesting how many of the families said their parents did NOT talk about it. My grandparents, also. Although, I did try and ask mine but it seemed it was just something they got through and weren’t sure how/what to share about it!

  1. It was my great grandparents who lived through the depression, and as is the way with children, I was “too cool” while they were around to ask questions about their history. For a teenager, there is no “life before me” I suppose.

    What a fascinating story!

    1. I like to follow threads of families of generations. Unfortunately, these usually mean EPIC books and loooonnnngg. I am so hesitant to read long books, sigh.

  2. I love when my mom has the same reaction to a book that I did and we can really talk about it. But one that gets your mom talking about her own history is a wonderful treat.

    1. I had the best time pushing books on my parents and having them read them THEN share what they thought. My dad took American Gods home and at the start, said it was ‘weird’. Which it is, but I’m hoping he likes it too! (I need to call him and ask before he forgets – it’s already about 6 books ago)

  3. I love that it spurred a conversation between your mom and you about your own family history! I’ve had that happen to me with my Gram a few times and it is truly wonderful.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour – I’m thrilled you enjoyed this book as much as you did. I can’t wait to read it myself!

  4. Sounds like an amazing story. I love it when I find a book that portrays people being awesome, instead of all selfish and mean like they are in a lot of the nonfiction books I find myself reading. Thanks for reviewing, Care!

    1. Jill, I tried to encourage my mother to use goodreads more but she couldn’t remember her pswd. But no, no cakes nor cookies.

      It is fun to talk books with my mom. And dad, too! (Mom can never remember what she read…)

  5. I’ll have to add this one to my wish list. My parents both lived through the Depression and had totally different perspectives (one poor; one pretty well-off, compared to most), so it was interesting to hear about their experiences.

    I’ve been past Canton, Ohio but never through it. When I think of Ohio, I think “flat”. I don’t think I got a very good look at it, though. LOL

    1. Nancy, when I think ‘Ohio’, I just think of all the people that mistakenly think that state is ‘midwest’. I don’t. In fact, anything east of the Mississippi River is ‘east’ to me!

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