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The Christmas Letters

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  1,025 Ratings  ·  137 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:

Paperback, 136 pages
Published August 19th 2002 by Algonquin Books (first published 1996)
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Lee Smith's story - The Christmas letters is a collection of letters from 3 generations of women, the story is fascinating in a way. It takes you through their lives, traditions and turmoils. The book is paced in a way that you grow with the family and feel you are living it right there with them.

My mother, and grandmother before her, have always written Christmas letters, and now I think I am beginning to understand why. There is something beautiful in sharing that little bit of yourself (and t
Dec 26, 2010 Staci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Staci by: Nan
Shelves: 2010-reads
This book started out great, told in the fashion of Christmas letters that spanned three generations. I really liked Birdie Pickett and the letters that she wrote to family members. It was a great glimpse into days gone by from 1944 and through to the early 1960's. Then Mary, her daughter, took over. I liked her letters too, until the last two years where I thought she got way too personal for a Christmas letter. Forget the third generation as this daughter only wrote one letter. I think the aut ...more
Nancy Baker
Dec 16, 2016 Nancy Baker rated it it was ok
I don't usually read a "Christmas" story, but I ran across this one in one of my daily special e-mails and decided to give it a try. I'm glad it was a novella (only 88 pages) because I don't think I could have handled much more. It is a short story depicting annual Christmas letters sent to relative and friends and covers 3 generations continuing the tradition.

I am familiar with Christmas letters wherein you hear of the year's celebrations and news of family and friends who are separated from y
Carla Hostetter
Nov 25, 2012 Carla Hostetter rated it really liked it
I always enjoy the work of Lee Smith. This short novella telling the story of three generations of women through their Christmas letters is a very fast read and yet it encompasses all their life experiences. What is not said is as important as what is. In the end some family secrets are revealed, like the cheating husband, no surprise really, but others do astound. All women have been in these situations, making the best of things. We can relate.
Book Concierge
A multi-generational saga told through some of the annual Christmas letters written to friends/family from 1944-1996.

It begins with a letter from Birdie, a new bride with her husband serving in the Pacific during WW2. Over the years the family grows and eventually her daughter, Mary, takes over the letter-writing. Ultimately Mary’s daughter completes the saga. Each letter has a recipe at the end, which is somewhat indicative of the time frame.

I was bored for much of this, and saw several of th
Apr 15, 2011 Mitzi rated it really liked it
I'll never rank any book by Lee Smith lower than 4 stars. (Fair and Tender Ladies is my favorite.)

I don't know how much non-Southerners will like The Christmas Letters, but as a native North Carolinian, reading this book is like sitting on the porch with a tall glass of sweet tea and shooting the breeze with women I have known. Every character, every recipe, every story, and every turn of phrase is as familiar to me as my old college sweatshirt.
Jill Robbertze
Dec 31, 2012 Jill Robbertze rated it it was amazing
This is a delightful little novel. A family saga told through the Christmas News letters written by 3 generations of women who not only share their stories but also recipes. A great little read when you want something lighter (and shorter) as I often I do after having read a spell of more emotionally taxing non-fictions.
Elizabeth Schlatter
Nov 29, 2013 Elizabeth Schlatter rated it liked it
Shelves: cheesy-goodness
Like a snack pack of Cheetos, this was cheesy and predictable and small. It was just what I wanted.
Dec 08, 2016 Crystal rated it it was amazing
This was a very different holiday read for me..and one that was quite enjoyable. I actually thought these were real people being written about, relatives of the author. She made them appear very real, and the family feelings it evoked were incredible. In every set of letters by the three generations of women, I felt as though I was living their stories. I love the way the author wove the stories into a holiday collection, letters written every year to friends and family members, sort of updates ...more
Diane Barnes
Dec 22, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it liked it
I thought I had read all of Lee Smith's books, but this little novella esscaped me somehow. Not really a Christmas story at all, but a story of three women and their families revealed through a yearly letter to get the rest of the family up to speed. I have been reading some odds and ends and essays and short stories lately, because this time of year is busy and fragmented, so this little book fit in nicely.
Sharon Laub
Nov 18, 2016 Sharon Laub rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting reading

The letters tell the story of this family in the format of a Christmas letter although in far greater depth than any Christmas letter I ever wrote or received. Nevertheless a good read.
Mary Lou
Feb 19, 2017 Mary Lou rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Interesting and unique way to tell the story.
Dec 17, 2016 Heather rated it liked it
Liked the letter format. Interesting trail through time.
Lavender Dreamer
Dec 10, 2016 Lavender Dreamer rated it liked it
This was a very good book, easy to read. Lee Smith is such a wonderful storyteller!
i liked this book a lot. i wish i could have read more letters.
Nov 13, 2009 Kellie rated it it was amazing
This was quite a surprisingly good read. It is my bookclub’s December read and I really enjoyed it. It is actually several letters written by 3 generations of women in the same southern family. These are the familiar X-mas letters that people like to send with their X-mas cards that tell friends and relatives all the things that happens in their life that particular year. Scattered within the letters are some recipes. Some I’m thinking of jotting down and trying myself. This was a unique way to ...more
Christie Johnson
Dec 25, 2016 Christie Johnson rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Just so so. I picked it up because I love books with letters in them, but this one wasn't letters between two people. It was too one-sided to me.
Dec 21, 2016 Brenda rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Good quick holiday short story/collection of letters.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This Christmas novella gave an heartwarming portrait of three generations of a family in North Carolina from the 1940's through the early 2000's. The story is presented through the Christmas letters of first Birdie, a young married woman originally from West Virginia who's living with her in laws while her husband serves in the South Pacific. We follow Birdie through the years with her letters, including the establishment of the family dime store and her lunch room to the death of her husband in ...more
Sep 19, 2010 Judy rated it liked it
Okay, it's a little over three months until Christmas so, of course, I am already anticipating the holidays. I have already purchased several gifts and wrapped one. But who am I kidding? I will let the holidays sneak up on me like they do every year and then I will run around like my hair is on fire. Plus, I probably won't be able to find the gift that's already wrapped until a few days after the tree is taken down. It's a tradition. But I digress. One of the aspects of the holiday season that I ...more
Chris Conley
Dec 17, 2016 Chris Conley rated it really liked it
This is a lovely way to tell a multi-generational story of a family of women in the south. Done through annual Christmas letters, first from Bridie, then her daughter, Mary, and then her granddaughter, Melanie. Spanning about 50 years, it shows the changing world but always through the eyes of this family. I enjoyed it a lot.
Kelly  Schuknecht
Dec 23, 2015 Kelly Schuknecht rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, holiday, novella
I thought this would be a good book to read over Christmas. It was interesting enough that I was able to finish it, but I wouldn't recommend it for a few reasons:

1)There is a lack of character development, so it was hard to really care about the women writing the letters or the family members they were writing about.
2) The time lapse between letters was too long (as in a decade or more at a time). This kind of ties in with #1 -- more letters/content to fill in the space would have helped with c
Sandra Strange
Nov 18, 2013 Sandra Strange rated it did not like it
Shelves: chick-books
The problem with this small Christmas book is that it's too politically correct. The story is a series of Christmas letters, at first personal, then the letters one includes in Christmas cards, beginning with letters from a new bride at the beginning of WWII to her mother, ending with her granddaughters family Christmas letter. At one point, one of the women writes that people are stereotypes. And that's the problem with this book: the characters are too much politically correct stereotypes. The ...more
Dec 22, 2015 Susan added it
So this was book read by a group I am a part of, so I wouldn't normally pick it up. I am glad I did though. Ms. Smith's book is a novel of Christmas letters from 3 generations writing to the family to let them know of the goings on in the family from each author's point of view. Sometimes its Christmases gone by before you read about the family. Each letter has a recipe that goes with the story of the letter. I love how you got snippets of life from each of these ladies and appreciate a time gon ...more
Debbie Maskus
Oct 14, 2009 Debbie Maskus rated it it was ok
Read for Evening Edition Book Club 12/1999 & Southern Voices 12/2006
Another book club selection, one that I read many years ago, but each reading brings new insights. This is a Christmas rendering by three generations of women, starting with Birdie in the 1940's, and ending with Birdie's granddaughter, Melanie, in 1996. All the women are living in the South, basically NC. I like the history of times: the wars, love, children, infidelity, hardship, and the everyday living. The men are all sec
Dec 06, 2016 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christmas
The Christmas letters, few and far between, have two consistencies: all written by women, and all including, or concluding with recipes.
Carolyn Lind
Oct 23, 2011 Carolyn Lind rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Three generations, ensconced within the pages of this brief book, center on Christmas letters, giving brief glimpses into the lives of their writers, complete with relevant recipes. The reality of those lives often disappears between the lines of the cheerful Christmas renditions, leaving spaces redolent of undiscovered truth; truth waiting its season to blossom with meaning in this delicious little novela by Lee Smith.

Quote to remember: "As a child, I thought adults were, by definition, wiser t
Cathy Cramer
Jan 29, 2016 Cathy Cramer rated it liked it
Shelves: christmas, letters
The premise of this story interested me, because I enjoy reading and writing Christmas letters. These letters, however, go deeper than the typical Christmas letters, into trying to understand the authors' lives, year by year. It is not, however, the "heart-warming story" as described. Each generation makes worse mistakes than the prior generation, instead of learning from their mistakes. This results in deeper and deeper heartache for the authors and their families. There is still a sense of hop ...more
Feb 01, 2013 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
I will miss reading about the lives of the women who wrote the Christmas letters in this book. I felt I had come to know them. Since the letters were sent to various recipients, which differed from year to year, the content of each letter was chosen accordingly by its writer. However, some items in the letters seemed to be included mainly to remind the writer of experiences she did not want to forget.

My only complaint about this Kindle version is that the cover of the book as it appears in my
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Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia, nine-year-old Lee Smith was already writing--and selling, for a nickel apiece--stories about her neighbors in the coal boomtown of Grundy and the nearby isolated "hollers." Since 1968, she has published eleven novels, as well as three collections of short stories, and has received many writing awards.

The sense of place infusing her
More about Lee Smith...

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