Christmas Jars


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I felt like the writing in this book, especially in the beginning, was a little choppy.  It didn't read quite like a novel but more like a short story someone wrote for their high school English class.  Also like high school the diagram of a story shows the climax, or peak, where the story turns and makes a significant shift.  In this story it felt like they were stretching the story just to make that peak even though it was a really weak turning point.  

The book is an easy read.  I started on a Monday night and finished within 48 hours, even with working full time and other family responsibilities.

The book has a website dedicated to it.  It has lots of testimonies of people who have received and given jars.  It brought tears to my eyes.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex:  0

Religion:  2

Gruesome:  0

Suspense:  2

Morality:  5

Sex - not even mentioned

Religion - even though it is a book about Christmas I didn't feel that it was overly religious

Gruesome - there is a break-in / robbery but other than the frustration of the aftermath, there is no direct account

Suspense - most people can see how things are going to play out with major characters before they happen although there is one slight surprise that is revealed at the end however there was no hype-up before hand therefore no suspense

Morality - people do the right thing in this book, and when they don't, they have a big internal struggle because of it and then set about to put things right

Maybe I don't have a reporter's intuition but Hope thought (on pgs. 37 and 42) that this would be the story that changed her life.  The way she talked, if there was a Pulitzer for a feel-good story, she had it in the bag.  Maybe I'm just jaded, but I see similar stories on the news every year at Christmas time so if I were a reporter I would see it as a nice story but nothing that was going to set me apart from my colleagues.

There was a big shift at the end of Chapter 8 - Adam is going to tell a story.  At the beginning of Chapter 9 it's not immediately clear that he has gone back to the first Thanksgiving as a married couple when they visited his parents.

When Hope was surprised to learn of her award as featured editor of the month (p. 79-80) it is early summer and she assumes the Maxwells read the story and instantly know she betrayed them.  The article mentions a "promise of a current investigation" but doesn't say that it is specifically the Christmas Jars story.  Certainly there is some level of betrayal in that she told them she was a student but there still would have been plenty of time to talk it out and decide what, if anything, she was going to write about the Christmas Jars because that story didn't run until Christmas Eve. (p. 91)  This is the "climax" that is a bit of a force-feed.

Discussion Questions

Does your family have any giving to others traditions?

At the end of Chapter 11 and in Chapter 12 Hope is nervous about what publishing the story will do to her relationship with the Maxwells.  If you could give Hope motherly advice, what would it be?

Do you think the Maxwells know Hope was someone they gave a jar to or did her jar come from someone else?

Did you think immediately after the funeral was the right time for Hope to show up at the Maxwells?  (p. 97)

There are also some very nice questions on the book's website.

Theme Ideas

Serve greasy chicken legs and thighs like Hope and her mom ate every Christmas at Chuck's. (p. 1)

Decorate with a "boogie-dancing Santa" like they had by the register at Chuck's.  (p. 2)

Serve tater tots and limeade like when Louise told Hope she was adopted. (p. 6)

Serve Hope's official Christmas meal: "chicken, biscuits with real butter and [free] pie with [all the] vanilla ice cream..." (p. 8)

Serve tacos and chips like when Hope told her mom about her promotion to the editorial page. (p. 10)

Serve oatmeal with blueberries like Hope made Louise when Louise stopped working. (p. 13)

Serve Carrot Cake like on Hope's 23rd birthday. (Chapter 3, p. 15)

Serve cheese in honor of Adam's "very cheesy lines". (p. 46)

Serve Ham and Swiss hoagies and grape juice like Adam served Hope. (p. 47)

Serve crepes, fresh fruit, hash browns and hot rolls like the Maxwell's brunch. (p. 50)

Re-create the Maxwell's Thanksgiving meal that Adam told about in his story:  turkey, mashed potatoes with skin, Waldorf salad, hot homemade rolls with real butter. (beginning Ch. 9 p. 53)

Serve chocolate pancakes like Adam made for their first Christmas morning. (p. 59)

Re-create Christmas dinner at the Maxwell parents' house:  "ham, dressing, cheesy potatoes and, of course, hot rolls". (p. 61)

Serve BBQ chicken and corn on the cob like on Labor Day. (p. 62)

Serve frosted root beer like when Adam and Louise decided to try to have a baby. (p. 63)

Serve cookies and hot chocolate like became the Maxwell's traditional breakfast on Christmas. (p. 69)

Serve lemon ice water like Louise made when Adam was telling Hope the story. (p. 72)

Playlist:  
  • Jingle Bells (like Hope whistled after her first interview with Adam, p. 48)
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