In Leisha Kelly’s well-received novel, Julia’s Hope, Samuel and Julia Wortham and their two children charmed readers as they found shelter in the home-and heart-of a grandmotherly woman named Emma Graham. Now, in Emma’s Gift, the Wortham family is struck down by the deaths of two close friends, including their neighbor Wilametta Hammond, just days before Christmas 1931. Wila is the mother of ten children and the glue that holds the family together. In his grief, her husband, George, ignores the children and has no will to live. Sam and Julia step in to help, but how can they manage ten extra children when they barely have enough for themselves? Can George overcome his grief and become the father his children need? And if Emma’s nephew takes ownership of her land, will the Worthams be allowed to stay? Masterfully told from the perspective of both Samuel and Julia, Emma’s Gift is an unforgettable story of God’s faithfulness and peace and of the seasons of life that shape each of us.
Emma’s Gift is the sequel to Julia’s Hope which I read first. Both books were startlingly vivid for me and images linger in my mind even though I’ve read two more books since finishing Emma’s Gift and I read so many books I often forget the details quickly. The fact that the stories are lingering in my mind, images to be revisited and thought about, is a significant testimony to the great story line and characters in this book!
The story revolves are Julia and Samuel (mostly Julia) as they reach out to their neighbours who are struggling to accept and deal with the death of their wife and mother, Wilametta. Left with 10 children of varying ages, the father, George, is unable to deal with the grief or his children. Julia and Samuel then step in to take in the children with only days to spare before Christmas. In a year, that has been terribly lean as it is, they must find a way to share Christmas with these children who have never known plenty and have just lost their precious mother. Because their father is unable to cope, it seems as if they have lost both parents. While dealing with this one loss, they are also having to deal with the loss of another dear one. Now they are left wondering if they will lose all that they have, home and friends, with the deciding of estates and land. Julia’s hope begins to waver as she wonders how one family can bear so much.
The story is set during The Depression when families are having to resort to some pretty drastic means to support and feed themselves. This time period has often held a special appeal to me as I wonder what would happen to my own family if we were ever in a similar situation. So, besides being incredibly possible and hence, believable, the characters are strong and empathic. Having felt like I knew the family personally from the first novel, I was amazed at their strength and resilience through some pretty trying circumstances. They showed generosity and compassion to a family when they had very little themselves.
The story is just so sad that it lingers in my mind. Seeing the children try to pull together and mourn the passing of their mother is heart rending. Never mind the paralyzing sadness of the father… However, there is hope in the end and it is not a fairy tale happily-ever-after ending, but one that will leave you feeling satisfied. I guarantee that you will be left with a wonderful feeling of love and neighborliness after reading this awesome story!