With the holidays approaching, thoughts inevitably turn to family. Yet more likely than not, the novels topping the best-seller lists are about dysfunctional families and the scars they leave as a legacy.
However, Beverly Singer, a mother of three grown children and grandmother of five, is eager to share one book that celebrates the family, and the enduring gifts that family members’ love for one another provide not only to them but also the people whose lives they touch.
Singer, a retired piano teacher who lives in Weymouth, is an avid reader. She recalls that as a child, every possession she owned was a hand-me-down from three older sisters. However, she said, the presence of a truly loving family was one gift that was handed down and lasted her a lifetime.
Friends often had new toys or new clothes, she said, but these eventually broke or became too small, and she discovered that these friends actually envied her because of her large, loving family. And as she says, “that never wore out.’’
When Singer was recently given “Christmas Jars’’ by Jason Wright, she read it in one sitting. “While Wright’s novel is most certainly an uplifting, feel-good story, the message it carries is by far more important,’’ she said.
When the story begins, a newborn has been abandoned in a booth in a lonely highway diner. The child is discovered by a single woman, who ultimately adopts the beautiful baby she names Hope.
Hope Jensen is raised with love and care, and an enormous drive to succeed. With early success in writing and the support of her mother, Hope aspires to become a journalist. Yet, just as her dream begins to comes true, Hope’s mother dies from cancer.
Getting through her first Christmas without her mother would have been hard enough, but Hope returns home Christmas Eve to discover that her small apartment has been robbed and all of her possessions destroyed or stolen.
In the midst of her despair, Hope finds that someone has anonymously left a glass Christmas jar for her, filled to the brim with coins and bills. It is an act of kindness that touches her deeply.
It doesn’t take long for her curiosity and journalistic instincts to take over. Who left the jar? Why was she chosen among all those in need? Should she save it or pass it along to someone else?
Hope senses that the story of the Christmas jar’s origin could also be the big break she is hoping for, landing her a front-page story for her newspaper.
Hope finds the Maxwell family, a loving family that she believes originated the Christmas jar tradition. Disguising her mission, Hope manages an introduction and soon finds herself practically a member of the family’s tight-knit circle. Now she must decide whether she wants the story nearly as much as she wants their love and respect.
Ultimately, what Hope discovers about the Christmas jar tradition, and more surprisingly, about herself, is the heart of this wonderful Christmas story.
“ ‘Christmas Jars’ is a perfect little jewel of a book, that is perfect for the season because it restores one’s faith in family and humanity,’’ Singer said.
“While one might think that the money that fills the Christmas jar is what’s important, I think it’s really a metaphor for the love that each member deposits that truly makes a difference for its recipient.
“This is really a simple, heartwarming tale, about the ripple effect one random act of kindness and giving can have, in renewing hope in the heart of the jar’s recipient. I would go as far as to say that this short, 122-page book is a gift in itself, because its inspirational message of the power of giving is a transformative message which is enduring.’’
Singer also hopes that every family on the South Shore will consider starting a Christmas jar tradition of their own. After all, she said, “this is the true spirit of Christmas.’’
Nancy Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.