Synopses & Reviews
In The Christmas Letters
, three generations of women reveal their stories of love and marriage in the letters they write to family and friends during the holidays. It's a down-home Christmas story about tradition, family, and the shared experiences of women.
Here, in a letter of her own, Lee Smith explains how she was inspired to write this celebrated epistolary novel:
Like me, you probably get Christmas letters every year. I read every word and save every letter. Because every Christmas letter is the story of a life, and what story can be more interesting than the story of our lives? Often, it is the story of an entire family. But you also have to read between the lines with Christmas letters. Sometimes, what is not said is even more important than what is on the page.
In The Christmas Letters, I have used this familiar format to illumine the lives, hopes, dreams, and disappointments of three generations of American women. Much of the story of The Christmas Letters is also told through shared recipes. As Mary, my favorite character, says, "I feel as if I have written out my life story in recipes! The Cool Whip and mushroom soup years, the hibachi and fondue period, then the quiche and crepes phase, and now it's these salsa years."
I wrote this little book for the same reason I write to my friends and relatives every holiday--Christmas letters give us a chance to remember and celebrate who we are.
With warmest greetings, Lee Smith
"The latest from Lee Smith, 'one of our finest Southern writers, is The Christmas Letters, an epistolary novella that tells the story.of three generations of women in the Pickett family from North Carolina: Birdie Pickett; her first daughter, Mary; and one of Mary's twin daughters, Melanie. Spanning 50 years, the book consists of 17 Christmas letters, those all-purpose, factfilled yearly updates filled with the news of friends and family, anecdotes and advice, births and deaths, triumphs and hardships, and—of course—recipes. Birdie begins the collection in 1944, while her husband is fighting in World War II and she is living with his parents, and continues her letters through the flood of 1955, the opening of her dime store, and the death of her husband in 1967.Her daughter, Mary, picks up the book in part two, with the birth of her first child, and we follow her from trailer park to a full and rich family life to—in the longest and richest letter in the book—the collapse of her marriage in 1993.A letter from Melanie, the granddaughter, closes the book in 1996, with her
mother in the Peace Corps and herself a budding professional writer. Just as the form of the letters evolves through carbon copies, mimeographs, photocopies, and computer printouts, so does the story these letters tell reflect the changing lives of their authors." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Three generations of women reveal their stories of love and marriage in the letters they write to family and friends during the holidays. It's a down-home Christmas story about tradition, family, and the shared experiences of women.
About the Author
Lee Smith is the author of sixteen previous books of fiction, including the bestselling novels Fair and Tender Ladies and The Last Girls, winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Also the recipient of the 1999 Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.&