Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Secret Gift, by Ted Gup: a book review

A Secret Gift, written by Ted Gup, is based on his investigation of a secret gift of charity made by his grandfather, Sam Stone, during the Depression. In 1933 Sam Stone ran an advertisement in the local Canton newspaper offering a small donation to needy families. The families only need write to his pseudonym, Mr. B. Virdot (a clever reference to his three daughters: Barbara, Virginia and Dorothry) and explain their situation. The entire project was anonymous as Stone felt that even though they were down on their luck, people still had pride.
The book is filled with insights into the everyday lives of Canton residents. From the destitute to the wealthy, the "Hard Times" touched everyone. Gup uses his investigative reporter skills to track down the descendants of each of the families that received the $5 gift. Along with their stories, Gup weaves through the book his search to clear up his grandfather's mysterious past.
While the division of chapters is often choppy, Gup does an effective job of weaving the stories of those Sam Stone helped with the story of discovering Stone's past. I chose to read the book because the story seemed like a great "good feeling" read, especially during the holiday season. I was not disappointed. Of course, not all of the families had stories that ended on a positive note, but the idea that someone put others before oneself brought a bright spot to my season. I wish that Gup had mentioned more of the steps he took to find the recipients of his grandfather's gifts and their descendants, but I suppose that would have narrowed down the audience too much. Overall, I would recommend this book to any fan of genealogy or history.

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