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The Christmas Letters

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,184 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
This heartwarming story of three generations of Christmas letter writers is about family tradition, family love, family strength—the perfect story to give at Christmas, and to read yourself.

Birdie Pickett, her daughter Mary, and her granddaughter Melanie are all storytellers at heart. Their letters—folded inside their Christmas cards—tend to be long ones because they write
Hardcover, 126 pages
Published January 11th 1996 by Algonquin Books (first published 1996)
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Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

”Those were hard times, I reckon, but they seem sweet to me now, and almost golden somehow, as seen through the haze of the years.”

The Christmas Letters is a charming epistolary novel, which shares the stories, and even some recipes, annually, through the voices of three generations of women. It begins with a Christmas letter written Christmas Eve of 1944, a young wife, young mother of an infant, teary-eyed as she writes to her mother from the attic room of her in-law’s home, with her husband
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve included a letter in my Christmas cards for years. One year I heard somewhere that most people think Christmas letters are lame and old fashioned so I didn’t write one to slip into the cards. What an uproar! All my family and friends asked where the updates were. So that just goes to show that Christmas letters are timeless and people want to know what your family is up to.
The letters in this book trace the lives of three women through their yearly Christmas missives. I loved it! There wa
Diane Barnes
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.
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
Nancy Baker
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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Book Concierge
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Carla Hostetter
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
This is not a Christmas story the way the title might suggest to baby boomers. It is a series of letters written by three generations of mothers-daughters between the years 1945 to 1996. The letters began as a way for a lonely, homesick war bride living with her in-laws in North Carolina to let her West Virginia family know how she was dealing with life as a new mother. In later years, the letters became more like the mass-sent end-of-year newsletter common in the latter half of the 20th century ...more
Family history in the form of Christmas letters from 3 generations of women in North Carolina. Love this form of story telling through letters, but this wasn't one of my favorites. It did contain some recipes in the letters, but it just wasn't as interesting as I would have liked.
Browsing at the local library for some holiday reads, I was drawn immediately to this little novella by the collage-like holiday wreath of over-the-years letters/stamped envelopes/sepia-toned photos making up the cover of author Lee Smith's The Christmas Letters. I love the concept (boldface the word 'concept') of the book - the stories of three generations of a family tied together through Christmas letters over a span of 52 years, the last letter coming full circle in the young lady being inte ...more
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Like a snack pack of Cheetos, this was cheesy and predictable and small. It was just what I wanted.
Anne Brown
I liked the first set of stories, but not the second as much and I didn't see the point of having a new character write only one at the end. The Christmas letter format was an interesting idea, but they were written as though these women never spoke to their family and friends throughout the rest of the year. There was also a lot more personal information in them than you'd expect in a Christmas letter going to multiple recipients. Overall it was just ok. I liked some of the characters and narra ...more
Linda Jung
While I enjoy Christmas books to take me into the season, I’m not sure if this really qualifies as one since the only reason it’s listed in the seasonal books is due to the title and the fact that each Christmas letter was just that, written at Christmas time. It’s really a collection of letters that weaves through three generations. Enjoyable. Not a lot of character development but enjoy a land made for an easy read.
Megan Baker
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love how the Christmas letters follow the same family for generations. And I love how there’s recipes at the end of each letter too! Seeing how the family grows is so sweet and the fact that it’s set around Raleigh, NC is really neat too!! I didn’t love it at first but as I started to get going, I fell in love with this short little book!!
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good novella following three generations of a family through the traditional Christmas letter sent out first through the mother, then a daughter and finally a granddaughter. A great read for the holiday season that does a great job of capturing the feel of each generation of the family!
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Lee Smith's writing. It was such an interesting premise for a book written entirely through Christmas letters. I loved watching the evolution of the family and characters and their various life stages.
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christmas

Each of the letters was interesting and you could see things coming that their authors were not yet aware of. I did not agree with some of the wisdom that Mary had accumulated in her later years. The letters seemed to end abruptly without much conclusion
Beth Hutchison
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pulled me in

I chose 4stars because, I think the family background could have been covered a little more , like showing a family tree ,I got lost a few times trying to remember where people fit in.
I good book and fast read
This book was short and sweet! Interesting short stories written in the letters from and about the lives of three generations of the family!
Mandi Grasmeyer
Slow start, but then this book was captivating. Such an interesting concept, only sharing annual updates.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This was a nice and interesting read.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Simply delightful and I loved all the recipes.
Lavender Dreamer
This was a very good book, easy to read. Lee Smith is such a wonderful storyteller!
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
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Lou
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Interesting and unique way to tell the story.
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
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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
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