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Unexpected Gifts

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives behaviors help mold our own? In Unexpected Gifts, that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family s diaries and journals from America s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary ...more
Paperback, 382 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Mockingbird Lane Press (first published April 1st 2013)
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3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  224 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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S.R. Mallery
Apr 28, 2013 added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
“S.R. Mallery has caught the defining moments in the lives of one working class, upward striving family, as each one of them benefits from and contributes to the growth and setbacks of America itself…A rich and involving book, the author has written a gem.
––Dorothy Salisbury Davis, A Gentle Murderer, Lullaby of Murder, The Pale Betrayer, etc.

“S.R. Mallery, with her strong sense of history and deft narrative skills, shows us one American family’s fascinating journey through flashpoints of Ame
Rick Mallery
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
S.R. Mallery (no relation) has written a fascinating novel about Sonia, a young woman struggling to break the cycle of bad choices that have run in her family. As a college psychology student, Sonia is actively involved in her psych study group where she explores her OCD behavior and where her study partner, Harry, frequently causes her to examine her relationship with her erratic and neglectful boyfriend. Sonia's boyfriend is the front-man in a rising rock band, and the band's growth in popular ...more
Simon Okill
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery is as the title suggests, totally unexpected and makes the perfect gift for all history buffs. Sonia is a troubled young woman in a destructive relationship with the lead of a popular rock group who finds solace and meaning to her life when her mother takes her to the attic and unleashes the family history from a chest of unexpected gifts - diaries, old family photos, cinema stubs, medals, newspaper clippings, the list is endless but engrossingly fascinating.
As S
Christoph Fischer
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“Unexpected Gifts” by S.R. Mallery is a great novel, comprising of an excellent dive into American history of the 20th century, with a hint of a very palatable family saga, a kind of personal memoir and a psychological journey into self-discovery by the main character Sonia.
Coming with her own set of problems Sonia is confronted with the ageing of her parents and when she finds diaries of family members in the attic she digs into her family’s colourful and intriguing past. Mallery takes us back
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is the story of Sonia's ancestors with her current problems in between. I loved the historical aspects. Each of her ancestors stories were beautifully written and showed a glimpse into that time period. But I just didn't care about Sonia's story. The writing wasn't as good and the conversations very hard to read. They just didn't flow. It was almost as if two different people wrote the book.
Piper Templeton
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Unexpected Gifts” by S.R. Mallery is an engaging, informative historical fiction novel that centers on psychology student Sonia reading her ancestors’ journals. Women’s suffrage movement, Vietnam, Woodstock, immigrants’ experience and challenges, and The Great Depression are some of the historical events covered through the journals. Sonia also discovers personal behaviors and patterns of her family that tie into her own experiences, such as her compulsiveness.

As Sonia delves into the journals,
P.C. Zick
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery lives up to its name. And the wrapping on that gift peels off layer after layer until the final beautiful gift reveals itself.

The book takes the reader on a journey through one young woman's legacy left by her ancestors. Sonia feels adrift in her life as she continues her relationship with an up and coming rock star and pursues her degree in psychology.

Starting with her parents' lives in the 1960s, she goes back through the years of the twentieth century as she "
Boyko Ovcharov
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Unexpected Literary Treasure

Apparently, I would not even dare to attempt at describing the great style of this real literary gem. I would rather share my personal experience of reading such a remarkable historical fiction novel.
First of all, I should disagree that this is only an 'American' novel. I feel it is a book about world history indeed. However, that is only the beginning and uppermost layer of this author's work. The personal, psychological, social and cultural insights of the story rea
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is engaging on so many levels! First, it’s a journey of personal exploration as Sonia, the young protagonist, struggles to find her own identity and to help her wheelchair-bound father fight the demons of his own past in Vietnam. That alone would have made for a great novel. But this is just the topmost layer of this deeply engaging novel. Sonia’s journey into her family’s past involves an examination of her family’s memorabilia that, in turn, leads to an interesting look at many event ...more
Murielle Cyr
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
S.R. Mallery has written a captivating novel that revisits several pivotal periods of American history. Sonia, a bright young psychology student, is far from being in control of her life. Her dead-end relationship with a controlling musician who demands she be at his beck and call reflects her own dysfunctional family: her father, a bitter paraplegic of the Vietnam war who abuses his wife both emotionally and verbally and turns to alcohol to bury his past. Her mother, who is basically a slave to ...more
Kathleen Kelly
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am sure everyone at one point in their lives has wondered about the lives of their ancestors. I know I have and have often thought about what my ancestors did in their lives, of course I will never know because my family was not known for sharing events to me as a child. But can you imagine having a whole trunk full of mementos and journals?? How awesome would that be? Sonia is a college student who is dating the wrong man, has a crippled angry father, a submissive mother and is very confused ...more
Amy Metz
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In this moving novel, S.R. Mallery takes us from one historic event to another, weaving a family's history with American history and teaching us and the main character some valuable lessons along the way. From Ellis Island to the Great Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt, civil rights, Vietnam, Woodstock, to present day, Mallery gives us a fascinating, intimate look at these events, as seen through the eyes of her characters. The book left me wishing my ancestors had left diaries and letters that woul ...more
Ellie Midwood
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this is one of the books you don’t want to miss! “Unexpected Gifts” is not your usual love story; it’s a complex mosaic of memories, emotions and feelings, all interconnected and interrelated and creating a unique world that you can’t help but feel immersed into.
Sonia is a psychology student struggling with OCD, even though she doesn’t want to admit it to herself. One day, visiting her father, who was left handicapped after the injury that he sustained in Vietnam, Sonia comes across “a tre
Marsha Roberts
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever wanted to take a sneak peek into the lives of your ancestors, not just out of curiosity, but in hopes of gaining some insight into your own psyche? I certainly have wondered what those who went before me were really like - how did they feel and what part of them was passed on to me? This is the subject S.R. Mallery tackles in her sweeping saga: Unexpected Gifts.

Mallery weaves together a tapestry of family history and places it in a precious trunk hidden in an attic, waiting to be d
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This meaningful novel is rich with historical events making it as if we were reading the memoir of a family. The saga of what made Sonia’s (the protagonist) family and therefore made Sonia is unforgettable. Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery is a rewarding read that dabbles in philosophy as the author paints with incredible detail that seems pulled from authentic diaries and letters. She places us into the story by connecting us to the context of our society’s memory. The characters and dialogue a ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful time period book – and it’s an especially great book for book clubs!

I was tasked with picking a book for our book club – and I began a search to find a time period fiction book that had very good reviews. I found it with Sarah Mallery’s book ‘ Unexpected Gifts’, and that’s exactly what the books was full of – gifts! It is a great story telling about many generations of a family that was an American (and even international) history trip as well. I enjoyed how
B.R. Snow
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery is a terrific, multi-layered novel that combines family drama and dysfunction, a look back at America in the 20th century, and a personal journey of self-discovery. Using a collection of family memorabilia, Mallery takes readers on a journey with her protagonist, Sonia, a woman who is simultaneously trying to find answers to her own struggles as well as those of her family, especially her father; an emotionally crippled man trapped in the past.

As Sonia reflects
Robert Carter
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction at its best ...

A beautifully constructed novel, which cleverly moves between the present day and significant events in 20th century history, incorporating turning points for the Balakov family. S R Mallery’s plot blends fiction with historical fact with sensitivity and a talent for conveying a real sense of the periods – the use, the imagery and the emotions. The characters are skilfully drawn and completely credible in their actions and speech. I thought the depiction of how
WTF Are You Reading?
S. R. Mallary uses a lyrical and highly descriptive voice to bring to life the panoramic tableau that is one young woman's family history.
The stories here are so rich and inviting that the reader quickly falls headlong into each. Whether the trials, tribulations, and harsh realizations of the Vietnam War; the brave and determined spirit of the Women's Sufferage Movement, or the bleak days of The Great Depression; Sonia comes to find herself in the voices of those she loves.
This book is a brillia
Charles Stubbs
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This fascinating work provides glimpses into the lives of five generations of Americans as they each struggle to come to terms with the economic, political and social challenges of their own times. Sonia, the modern day woman, is trying to work out what she wants from life, and in particular, from the men in her life. Sonia’s mother, Lily, introduces her to the contents of boxes stored in the attic of her parents’ home, and it is by reading these diaries and memoirs that Sonia learns how her anc ...more
Cynthia Collins
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unexpected Gifts by S. R. Mallery is for anyone who has ever wondered what their parents, grandparents, and other ancestors were like when they were young. It is for anyone who wonders how life has changed over several decades. Sonia, the main character, goes up in the attic to find old diaries, photograph albums, and newspaper clippings about her parents. How did they meet, what was New York City like in the 1960s, what was her father like before and after he went to Vietnam, and what was it li ...more
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Unexpected Gifts was an unexpected book!

So many historical events and times are covered from Woodstock and Vietnam to the depression, emigration/immigration and the poor conditions people were forced to endure once arriving here. Even the Titanic is briefly touched on!

I have never read a book that wasn’t a textbook that was able to successfully cover so many time frames in such little space, with the accuracy you really would expect from reading the journals of those who had actually lived in th
Lasher Lane
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Please see my review on Amazon.
Heather Lawson
Originally posted here:
When I find a book that has historical elements woven into the plot, I get excited because I love a good historical fiction when it’s executed well. I was particularly intrigued to see how Mallery would weave the present with the past in her story.

Sonia is having trouble in her life. She’s confused about where things should be going and lost in what she should be doing. Her relationship plays on her mind constantly
Nikita (NjKinny's World of Books & Stuff)
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Nikita by: SR Mallery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Unexpected Gifts by SR Mallery is truly an unexpected gift to readers. A realistic and emotionally rich story that took me back to the times I had only read about in my history lessons in school, this story took me inside and made me feel a part of that era.

When I heard about the book, the first thing that appealed to me was the title that is intriguing and had me checking out the blurb which had me reading the book. Interesting a
Dean C. Moore
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is not genre fiction, but something more literary and lyrical. The pace is calmer than I’m used to, but the depth of the character portrayal draws you in all the same. These are real life people facing real life challenges that most of us read to get away from, in order to grant ourselves a momentary respite. That being the case, it’s all the more curious what makes the magic of this story work. I surmise it’s because we discover the heroes in ourselves, which we might otherwise overlook, i ...more
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Copy received from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review.

"Unexpected Gifts" by SR Mallery was full of many unexpected surprises and twists and turns. Mallery's story was heartbreaking, sweet and fulfilling. The heroine, Sonia, was less than perfect. She was constantly making wrong decisions and choosing wrong people in her life. Aside from her bad choice in relationships she also struggles with addiction. Sonia is very lost and doesn't seem to be able to find her path. One m
Steven Ramirez
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, let me first say that I’m not really a fan of historical fiction. I’m more a horror-thriller kind of guy. That said, I had the pleasure of reading Unexpected Gifts and now have a new appreciation for this genre. The author has placed her protagonist Sonia in a contemporary setting, with all of the problems and pain of a nervous young woman trying to take control of her life. And things haven’t been going all that well. Doesn’t sound like the past, right? Well, here comes the historical part. ...more
Laura Reading
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prepare to get comfortable before you begin this novel. You will be drawn in and won't want to be interrupted. From the deeply personal historical remembrances to the present day relationships and choices being made, your emotions will react to each page.
Watching how Sonia struggles with her personal demons and desires to help others deal with their struggles, you'll find yourself wishing you could lend a helping hand.

Having grown up in the 60s, the Viet Nam and Woodstock sections combined with
P.J. Fiala
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
S.R. Mallery writes beautiful stories about people you feel are real. I felt like these characters were part of my family. Following Sonia's quest to learn about her ancestors as a way to learn about herself, I was taken to days gone by while also mixing in the lessons of the past with things to remember about the present to change your future. Wonderful story.
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S. R. Mallery has worn many hats in her life. Starting out as a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved onto the professional world of production art and calligraphy, followed by a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descent 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller and Down In the Dirt. Unexpe ...more