A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness - and a Trove of Letters - Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression

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Overview

Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered cash gifts to seventy-five families in distress. Readers were asked to send letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author’s grandfather, Sam Stone, was inspired to place this ad and help his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever endure.

Moved by the stories of suffering and hope in the ...

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A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression

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Overview

Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered cash gifts to seventy-five families in distress. Readers were asked to send letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author’s grandfather, Sam Stone, was inspired to place this ad and help his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever endure.

Moved by the stories of suffering and hope in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase seventy-five years later, Ted Gup first set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives to flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that B. Virdot’s gift had on each family.

But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable-retiree persona he’d always shown his grandson. Gup solves a singular family mystery even as he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307578037
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/9/2010
  • Format: CD
  • Sales rank: 1,419,426
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Gup is the author of the bestseller The Book of Honor and Nation of Secrets. A former investigative reporter for The Washington Post and Time magazine, he has also written for the New York Times, Newsweek, GQ, Slate, and Salon.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2010

    Great Book! Better than I thought it would be.

    This book is a collection of private personal letters written from real people who are at their wits end. You feel the despair in their written words, the lost hope of each letter writer, and the sadness during the Depression time. What makes this book exciting to read is that there is a follow-up of what happened to each family given $10.
    Not all have perfect endings and in some circumstances, the author, while researching for this book, brings about new revelations to the now elderly children of the parents who wrote these letters.

    This book gives the reader a great insight of how difficult the depression was and the challenges faced by real every day people. If you are into genealogy, like I am, you will absolutely love this book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2010

    A beautiful story-delightful

    Ted Gup writers an inspiring book using Sam Stone as a wonderul, caring and charamastic character. This book brought back wonderful memories of Canton, Ohio. We lived in Canton 12 years ago - what a delight to see the name of restaurants, industries and streets again. The true meaning of the holidays is portrqayed in "A Secret Gift." This is a book that can be read without the fear of finding invasive words, actions or deeds. A "family" book. A must read for everyone.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Touching, firsthand look

    A touching inside look at the Great Depression. Not only do you read the heartbreaking stories firsthand but you will read the story of the author's own grandfather and how it helped to create all of the other stories.I want my kids to read this book. Lots in this for everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Great

    Great gift to give. Realize life was a great struggle for many people-but, you can rise above it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Another great book about kindness coming out of the Great Depres

    Another great book about kindness coming out of the Great Depression is The Seeds We Sow. From the darkest of times comes some of the most inspirational stories of courage and kindness.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Worth the Read

    I did like this book, but when I was done I felt like I would have liked to have known more about Sam (the man who gave the secret gift), rather then hear another story about the people who received the gift. The book would have been no less relevant if Mr. Gup had given fewer of the stories of the recipients, rather then give too many, as I felt he did.
    One thing I appreciated (sadly) was how similar the issues were then and what we Americans are going through now. The difference? Today the people don't fend for others the way they did then, it seems as though today we are all on our own in our suffering.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    A wonderful story with great research

    It's a great easy read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    A Secret Revealed

    This book is great to keep in the car, bedside table or anywhere it can be picked up and read whenever you have a spare moment. The secret is no longer secret when author Ted Gup discovers a briefcase containing letters belonging to his grandfather from the great depression. It is uplifting as well as informative. A great perspective on our current economic crisis compared with the great depression of the 1930's.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    I was deeply moved by these folks

    I was deeply moved by this book, especially in these times when we have had so much and now have to rethink--- when is enough, enough?----read this book and you will come away with a better understanding of why diversity and tolerance are the key to the greatness of this country!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Moving and Very Timely

    This book brings the human side of the Depression to light, while telling the secret history of the author's family. With today's economic concerns, it's incredibly relevant.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    An excellent read

    This is a great book revealing what it was like in the midwest during the depression and what it was like for immigrants coming to this country. It accentuates what one man can do to help others in the worst of times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    It is no Secret

    Excellent revelations of the times and the impact a small - and secret - gift may have on gift and giver. Heartwarming. The book is easily read short excerpts at a time. So, it is great travel material. Moreover, the book reveals the very vulnerable nature of humanity to anonymous exposition.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    A book to own and a book to give!

    So well written - a great visit to a time and in human nature!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Intelligent & Passionate

    This book will help me make sense of archives I have collected and preserved

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Didn't finish it

    I found the concept of this book so interesting and it started out well. But the story of the "giver," which was not as interesting to me as the recipient stories, got repetitive as it went on and on. I got bored and stopped reading and moved on to another book.

    I got the feeling that someone suggested to the author that he write this book and he whipped something out just to get it done. That may not be the case, but that's how it felt to me. Others may enjoy it more than I.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    A must read for the happy ending lover!

    We met this author at a library opening and were priveledged enough to hear some of these stories from him. It was an inspiring concert with the Red Rock Band putting these stories to music. I bought the book that day. I loved the stories and setting. This is a beautiful book with an inspiring message. The stories in this book are hard to read at times because of the struggles the families went through. He brings home the fact that there are amazing people doing amazing things. This book book rings true of the true meaning of christmas!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    I enjoyed this book immensely!! It offered wonderful personal insight into the lives of families living through this terrible time. The author did a great thing by following up with these families and showing the readers how the effects of The Depression made lasting impressions on these families for generations to come. The authors personal family story is just as fascinating and perfectly intertwined with the stories from the letters. This was one of those books I did not want to end!

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    This is an outstanding book!

    I truly enjoyed reading A Secret Gift - this is an outstanding book! Ted Gup takes the reader on a journey with many life lessons.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews

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