The Christmas Sweater

The Christmas Sweater

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Based on a deeply personal true story, Glenn Beck’s bittersweet tale of boyhood memories, wrenching life lessons, and the true meaning of the giving season has touched the hearts of readers everywhere.

If you could change your life by reversing your biggest regrets, sorrows, and mistakes . . . would you?

When Eddie was twelve years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a bike. He knew money had been tight since his father died, but Eddie dreamed that somehow his mother would find a way to afford that dream bike.

What he got from her instead was a sweater. “A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater” that young Eddie left in a crumpled ball in the corner of his room.

Scarred deeply by the fateful events that transpired that day, Eddie begins a dark and painful journey toward manhood. It will take wrestling with himself, his faith, and his family—and the guidance of a mysterious neighbor named Russell—to help Eddie find his life’s path and finally understand the significance of that simple gift his mother had crafted with love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416595007
Publisher: Threshold Editions
Publication date: 10/26/2010
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 93,646
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Glenn Beck, the nationally syndicated radio host and founder of TheBlaze television network, has written thirteen #1 bestselling books and is one of the few authors in history to have had #1 national bestsellers in the fiction, nonfiction, self-help, and children’s picture book genres. His recent fiction works include the thrillers Agenda 21, The Overton Window, and its sequel, The Eye of Moloch; his many nonfiction titles include Conform, Miracles and Massacres, Control, and Being George Washington. For more information about Glenn Beck, his books, and TheBlaze television network, visit and

Read an Excerpt

The Christmas Sweater

  • The wipers cut semicircles through the snow on the windshield. It’s good snow, I thought as I slid forward and rested my chin on the vinyl of the front seat.

    “Sit back, honey,” my mother, Mary, gently commanded. She was thirty-nine years old, but her tired eyes and the streaks of gray infiltrating her otherwise coal black hair made most people think she was much older. If your age was determined by what you’d been through in life, they would have been right.

    “But Mom, I can’t see the snow when I sit back.”

    “Okay. But just until we stop for gas.”

    I scooted up farther and rested my worn Keds on the hump that ran through the middle of our old Pinto station wagon. I was skinny and tall for my age, which made my knees curl up toward my chest. Mom said I was safer in the backseat, but deep down I knew that it wasn’t really about safety, it was about the radio. I was constantly playing with it, changing the dial from her boring Perry Como station to something that played real music.

    As we continued toward the gas station, I could see the edge of downtown Mount Vernon through the snow. A thousand points of red and green Christmas lights lined the edges of Main Street. Hot summer days in Washington State were rare, but when they happened, the light poles covered in Christmas lights seemed out of place. They hung there in a kind of backward hibernation until a city worker would plug them in and replace the bulbs that didn’t wake up. But now, in December, the lights were working their magic, filling us kids with excitement for the season.

    That year I was more anxious than excited. I wanted it to be the year that Christmas finally returned to normal. For years, Christmas mornings in our home had been filled with gifts and laughter and smiling faces. But my father had died three years earlier—and it seemed to me that Christmas had died with him.

    Before my father’s death I didn’t think much about our financial situation. We weren’t wealthy, we weren’t poor—we just were. We’d had a nice house in a good neighborhood, a hot dinner every night and, one summer, when I was five years old, we even went to Disneyland. I remember getting dressed up for the airplane ride. The only other vacation I remember happened a few years later when my parents took me to Birch Bay—which sounds exotic but was really just a rocky beach about an hour away from our home.

    Back then we never wanted for anything, except maybe more time together.

    My father bought City Bakery when I was young—it had been in town since the 1800s. He put in long hours at work, leaving almost every morning before the sun (or his son) rose. My mother would get me off to school, clean up around the house a little, start some laundry, and then join him at the bakery for the rest of the day.

    After school I would walk to the bakery to help my parents out. On some days the walk took less than half an hour, but it usually took me a lot longer. At least a few days each week I would stop at the edge of downtown in the middle of the bridge that crossed the I-5 freeway and watch the cars and trucks whiz by. A lot of kids would stand there and spit onto the roadway below, hoping to hit a car, but I wasn’t that kind of kid. I just imagined myself spitting.

    I complained a lot about having to be at the bakery so much, especially when my dad made me wash the pots and pans, but secretly I loved to watch him work. Others might have called him a baker, but I thought of him as a master craftsman or a sculptor. Instead of a chisel he used dough, and instead of clay he used frosting—but the result was always a masterpiece.

    Dad and my uncle Bob both apprenticed in their father’s bakery from the time they were my age. Donning aprons, they washed a seemingly never-ending line of pots and pans, and they would learn recipes after school. In my dad’s case, it wasn’t long before the apprentice was more skilled than the master.

    Dad just had a knack for baking. He was the only one in the family who could bring his recipes to life. It wasn’t long before City Bakery’s breads and desserts were known as the best in town. Dad loved his creations almost as much as he loved his family.

    Saturdays were special because it was the day my father spent most of his time icing and decorating cakes. Not coincidentally, it was also the day I liked to work with him the most. Well, work might be a bit of an exaggeration, as I didn’t do much baking myself. Taking bread out of the proof box after it had risen was about as far as he’d let me go—but I watched him closely, and I took advantage of my role as “official frosting taster” as often as possible.

    Although Dad continually tried to teach me his recipes, I never quite got them down. Mom blamed it on my having the attention span of a gnat, but I knew it was really because I liked eating better than I liked baking. I was never interested in being a baker; it was too much work and you had to get up way too early. But Dad never gave up hope that one day I might change my mind.

    His first mission was to teach me how to make cookies, but not long after putting me in charge of the cookie dough and mixer he realized he’d made a mistake. A big mistake. If he’d left me alone with that raw dough for just a few more minutes, he wouldn’t have had enough left to bake. After that, Dad smartly switched his tactic from hands-on lessons to pop quizzes. He’d show me how to make a few batches of German chocolate cake, then he’d test me on the recipe and toss flour in my face when I invariably mentioned some ingredient that had no business being in a cake. Like meat.

    One day, right in the middle of an apple-strudel quiz, Dad’s cashier (my mother) came into the back to ask if he’d mind helping a customer. This wasn’t entirely unusual—Dad would come up front once in a while, mainly in the afternoons while the ovens were cooling and my mom made the daily trip to the bank. I think it was secretly one of his favorite times of the day; he was a real people person, and he loved to watch the faces of his customers as they sampled his latest creation.

    That day, I watched as Dad greeted Mrs. Olsen, a woman who seemed to me like the oldest person in town. She was a regular customer. When my mom waited on her, I noticed that she’d always spend a little extra time just listening to Mrs. Olsen’s stories. I guess she thought Mrs. Olsen was lonely. Dad treated her with the same kind of respect. He smiled warmly as he spoke to her, and I noticed the faintest hint of a smile begin to form on her face as well. Dad had that effect on a lot of people.

    Mrs. Olsen had come in for a single loaf of bread, but Dad spent five minutes trying to talk her into everything from his napoleons to his German chocolate cake. Ske kept refusing, but my dad insisted, saying it was all on him. She finally relented, and her smile stretched from ear to ear. She told him that he was too kind. I remember the word “kind” because I thought it was simple, and yet so true. My dad was kind.

    After her bread had been bagged and her free treats boxed, Mrs. Olsen reached into her purse and pulled out a kind of money I’d never seen before. As far as I could tell it wasn’t cash. It looked more like coupons—except we didn’t offer any coupons. As she turned to leave the store, my heart began to race. Had Dad just been scammed right in front of me? The bakery paid our bills (and, more importantly, it paid for my presents). I crept up next to my father at the cash register and, not thinking she could hear me, whispered, “Dad, that’s not money.”

    Mrs. Olsen stopped dead in her tracks and looked at my father. He, in turn, glared at me. “Eddie, into the back, please. Right now.” His voice had a definite edge to it. He then gave Mrs. Olsen a sympathetic nod and another warm smile, and she turned and continued out the door. I knew I was in trouble.

    As I walked through the opening into the back, my face felt hotter than the oven I was now standing in front of. “Eddie, I know you didn’t mean it, but do you know how embarrassing that was for Mrs. Olsen?”

    “No,” I replied. I honestly didn’t.

    “Eddie, Mrs. Olsen is a very good customer of ours. Her husband passed away about a year ago and she’s had a hard time making ends meet. You’re right, what she gave me isn’t money, but it’s just like it for people who need it. They’re called food stamps, and our government is helping her buy groceries until she can get back on her feet. We don’t talk about them in front of her because she doesn’t like the fact that she has to ask others for help.”

    Dad explained that while our family would never accept help from anyone, especially the government, there were good people who needed it. I immediately felt sorry for Mrs. Olsen—sorry for anyone who needed to rely on others for that kind of help. And I was glad that we would never be in that position.

    A few months later I got a chance to prove to my father that I’d learned my lesson.

    Mom had once again run to the bank, and I was in the front of the store putting fresh macaroons into the display case while Dad waited on customers. I watched as, once again, he accepted the funny-looking coupons as payment—this time from a guy buying bread, a pie, and a dozen cookies. But now, instead of warm smiles, friendly conversation, and yummy dessert suggestions, my father was completely silent.

    After the customer left it was my turn to do the questioning. I followed him into the back. “What’s wrong, Dad?” I asked.

    “I know that man, Eddie. He can work, but he chooses not to. Anyone who can earn money has no business taking it from others.”

    I eventually came to understand that my father, who’d grown up poor and struggled for everything we owned, had continually rejected offers of help from others. He had worked hard to build a business and provide for his family. He believed others should do the same. “The government,” he told me one night, “is there to act as a safety net, not a candy machine.”

    I don’t know if my mother had grown up with the same attitude or if she’d just learned it from all those years with my dad—but she felt the exact same way. With him now gone we were really struggling, but she refused to consider asking anyone for help. “We’ll get through this, Eddie,” she told me more than once. “Things are just a little tight right now, but there are so many others who need it more than we do.”

    As usual, Mom was being an optimist. “A little tight” didn’t begin to describe how frugal we had become. When we went out to dinner, which was only on very special occasions, she would always give me the same warning before the waitress appeared: “Remember, Eddie, don’t order any milk, we have plenty of it at home. No need to be wasteful.”

    I knew better. It wasn’t about waste, it was about money. That was all it was ever about. Mom worked seemingly endless hours at a seemingly endless number of jobs, our house was crumbling faster than Dad’s famous apple turnovers, and I hadn’t gotten a brag-worthy Christmas present since the Star Wars Millennium Falcon I’d gotten two years earlier.

    But this year would be different. I had been on my best behavior for months now. I’d taken out the garbage before Mom had asked, used my finely honed dishwashing skills at home, and had generally made sure that she wouldn’t have any excuse to not get me the bike I deserved.

    Still, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Every time a relative or neighbor asked what I wanted for Christmas, I made sure my mother was close enough to hear my finely tuned response: A red Huffy bike with a black banana seat.

    The Ford’s loud motor snapped me out of yesterday’s memories. We were on Main Street, and the once distant lights now glowed brightly through our foggy windows. I tried to look out the back windshield to see where we were, but I could only see my mop of dirty-blond hair reflecting back.

    Mom drove cautiously, although downtown seemed to be virtually deserted. A light turned red at the intersection ahead, and she slowly eased the car to a stop.

    “Eddie, look!” She was pointing out the passenger-side window.

    I rubbed my hand back and forth on the glass to clear the condensation. We had come to a stop right outside Richmond’s Sporting Goods’ big storefront window, the very place I had first seen the Huffy I’d been dreaming about all year.

    My eyes expertly searched the window, darting from baseball bats to gloves to sleds to...there it was. The Huffy. My Huffy. Its bright red frame, shiny chrome handlebars, and black banana seat sparkled brilliantly through the snow and fog.

    “Wow.” It was the only word I could come up with.

    Mom wasn’t looking at the bike anymore, she was looking at me in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t see her mouth, but I knew that she was smiling. I smiled back. Perry Como provided the sound track.

    “You want to pump the gas?” she asked a few minutes later as she pulled up to the self-service island. We stopped for gas a lot because our Pinto was always thirsty and Mom usually only had enough money to fill the tank partway.

    “Sure,” I said, leaping over the seat and following her out the door. “Can I get some Red Vines when I go in to pay?”

    “I’m sorry, Eddie,” my mother said gently. “I have the money for Red Vines but not enough for the dentist.” She smiled. “Now, scoot.” I knew she didn’t have money for the dentist, but her excuse didn’t fool me. I knew she didn’t have money for Red Vines either.

    I gave her the best look of disappointment I could muster. Still, deep down, I had hope. No money for Red Vines could mean that she was saving it all for something else.

    My bike.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Christmas Sweater 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 339 reviews.
    Gymbeaux More than 1 year ago
    Yesterday I received an advanced order copy of Glenn Beck¿s book. Last night instead of watching mindless TV programs I began reading it. I have only read two other books cover to cover in one sitting, Living at the Summit by Dr. Tom Hill and The Little Gold Book of YES!Attitude by Jeffrey Gitomer but last night I read The Christmas Sweater cover to cover. Glenn Beck is well known for his political commentary and should anyone decide NOT to read his book because of his beliefs, it will be their loss. This is an amazing novel, not a political commentary, about a 12 year old boy who experiences rough times growing up and how he responds or better, reacts. It is a book about growing up, about believing in yourself, about having faith, and about change. The book brought back memories of people, places, things and events in my own life as a youngster that I had completely forgotten about. The book is based in part about Glenn¿s life as he explains at the end. It is a very compelling read that I not only recommend everyone reading but the book would make a fantastic Christmas gift especially if you get the collector¿s hard cover edition. Gymbeaux
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Glenn Beck didn't reinvent the wheel or come up with a message that has never been heard. That would be impossible. He did, instead give us the gift of a life lesson which is written from the heart. In a world filled with a sense of entitlement and having to have the next big thing, isn't it time that we reflect on what really matters? I believe so.
    The Christmas Sweater reminds us that it isn't about the latest techno toy or sports car. It is about so much more and so much less. Well done Glenn Beck.
    Warm_in_ID More than 1 year ago
    This book touched me deeply. I am a cancer survivor and the message of this book was deeply understood. I am giving this book to as many people as I can afford to this year. If you don't understand the book at first read, save it until you need an attitude adjustment or a source of comfort in hard times. We all need to recognize what is most important in life and anything that can help us do that is of great worth. That is where this book is such a pearl. Deeply personal and poiniant, the message is much needed and timely for a world in turmoil.
    tinac59 More than 1 year ago
    My husband picked this up Friday afer work and read it that night. He passed it on to me. Now I know why he bought it, he knows what dark storms I've faced & this book was so powerful and meaningful to me.

    Through the eyes of a young boy we are taught the greatest meaning of life, love and faith. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and think it would be a wonderful gift idea.

    Thank you Glenn for the gift you gave to your many fans and readers. I will keep your words close to my heart.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am writing to support Glenn Beck. His book is optimistic in these difficult times. It should not matter that he is opinionated on his TV show, and that he is not writing something terribly original. What matters is his desire to change the world and change people for the better. We can be happy in these tough economic times. Material things do not really matter in the short or long run! There are always going to be those who do not like him and will not like this book because they are suspicious of those who want to help others. That's too bad. They will never stop the good people of this world... those who know that despite the haters, they WILL make a difference. Ignore those who cannot see the goodness in his book.
    lewisa More than 1 year ago
    This has to be one of the most meaningfully, well-written novels I have read in my life. In times such as these, this novel came on the market in a timely way - more than Glenn Beck could have ever predicted or premeditated. I have given this novel as gifts and assigned it to all of my 8th-grade English students - both regular and honors. Not only does the story have a strong message, but it also has so many levels at which a reader can read and a teacher can teach!
    KiKi-Tx More than 1 year ago
    One of the best books for me this year. It takes you to a place where you know what is important in life. Much needed for today's world which seems to be out of step with what really matters. I highly recommend this book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Glenn Beck can be kind of obnoxious sometimes, but with politics and religion aside, this was an awesome book. I wasn't expecting it to be so good. Who knew that he could create a masterpiece out of his own expieriences in life? It was very inspiring to me to become a better person. I recommend this book to everyone. I liked it so much, I went and bought 3 more copies to give away for christmas presents!
    patfan More than 1 year ago
    I could not put this book down, what a wonderful story! It filled my heart completely. Mr. Beck, thank you for your gift!
    StrangeCloud More than 1 year ago
    Glenn Beck's writing style is similar to his speaking style on his radio program: straight-forward with a touch of cynicism. Easy to read story with short chapters, compelling the reader to continue to the next chapter, and the next and the next. Based on his childhood, it's a story of suffering and redemption centered around his rejection of a gift from his mother, and his coming to terms with the self-created storms in his life. There are life lessons to be learned from this story. The earlier in life the better. Whether you agree with Beck's political positions and commentary or not, this book will touch your heart.
    ChristianFictionReader More than 1 year ago
    A fantastic book written by a fantastic guy. The book is genuine, like it's author. The book leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy, like it's author. Mainly, the book has real meaning to it. It touches the heart in many ways. Brings us back to our childhood, through the words of Glenn Beck in going back to his. The ending knocked my socks off. I plan to read this book again.....soon! Great Christmas reading or anytime reading. I recommend this book most heartily! :)
    CBarnes More than 1 year ago
    Once I started reading I could not put it down. I cried many times. I preorederd two copies. (In addition, Glenn gave one away to our servicemen and women if you preordered two) One for me and one to give away. I will give away both with a note to pass it on.

    Thank you Glenn
    civilwargirl More than 1 year ago
    The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck is a sweet and heartwarming story of forgiveness and redemption. When twelve year old Eddie receives a sweater for Christmas instead of the bike he believes he deserved it starts a series of events that will teach him about what is really important in life.
    a.clark More than 1 year ago
    childhood and the childhood of my children. It is a wonderful and touching book on family and faith.
    LauraLee More than 1 year ago
    I was given a beautifully bound and author signed copy from my brother for my birthday and it is my favorite gift. This book touches your heart, mind and soul and provides a wonderful opportunity for reflection, introspection and a change of heart. One can choose to make life altering changes after reading this special little book. Mr. Beck has a way with words and most descriptions of circumstances are painted vividly in expressive writing. I found myself giggling, smiling, tearing up and actually sobbing. I appreciate it when someone can stir such human emotions where one discovers genuine feelings of their own. I plan to give this book to those in my life that I love dearly. One time or another in our lives we will all need forgiveness, grace and atonement either for ourselves or others. Thank you Mr. Beck for sharing such a personal tale.
    clayton More than 1 year ago
    I bought the book yesterday and finished it the same day. Was a very good book and a good story also. I would recommend this book to anyone. I have already went and bought two more to give out.
    LoseTheRadiosMa More than 1 year ago
    Those familiar with Glenn Beck know his life story. Those who don't will still enjoy this book, which is loosely based upon an event in Beck's life. The message is simple: we become who we are based on events that happen in our lives but we don't have to remain that person. In order to not remain in stagnation, in order to be the best person we can be, we must face the demons of our pasts & be prepared to face the demons that will come our way in the future(the storm in the story). One character especially will leave his mark on the reader. He is metaphorical on many levels, including a level of spirituality. If you enjoyed Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven, you'll enjoy The Christmas Sweater.
    Paperlace More than 1 year ago
    This story based on a true experience is very well written. Moving and witty, it provokes the reader to do some deep soul-searching. An excellent book which I could not put down.
    rosiland-russell-Tn More than 1 year ago
    It is a very heart warming book. It makes a "Great" Christmas book to be read at Christmas time. I think the price is a little to high. Most people who need this book to bring some joy into their life during "this"
    Christmas year will not be able to afford it.
    CARLA ALTER More than 1 year ago
    I read this book at the urging of a friend - and read it twice! A must read for old - and young - alike. Sensitve, inspiring, amazing, and gently reaches to your heart - a reminder we are not perfect - and that's okay - as long as we learn from life's experiences. A quick read that the second time around is even better. Enjoy and grow from the reminder of Christmas past .
    J_Ruhe More than 1 year ago
    I could not put this book down and now I read it every Christmas. It is right up there with Dickens. Thank you Glen, you make us laugh, cry and think but most of all you gave me the best gift of my life you made me love to read. Since I started watching your show I can't get enough American History I even read historical fiction. I own 2 nooks thanks to you and B&N. You are a rare gift to this country and if the left would close their mouth and open their ears they just might learn something I know I did and I used to be one of them. God Bless you Glen.
    LadyJai More than 1 year ago
    This was a very heartwarming story everyone should read. It is especially helpful for those going through tough times, as we all do. It explains just how things happen and they are not our fault. Atonement is the most important highlight in this book, just as in real life. Your life is yours, and the path you take is your choice. Do not blame anyone else for your circumstances. But there is always time for 2nd chances. Highly recommended!
    lacajunmom More than 1 year ago
    A co-worker loaned this book to me because she thought I would enjoy it and I certainly did. I read it after the Christmas holidays but realized that this is not about Christmas but about everyday appreciation. I'm not so wrapped up in critiquing someone's writing style as other reviews herein have done but rate a book on how I feel after reading it. This book stayed in my thoughts for days afterwards so I hope to one day get my own copy for my personal library. It's a book enjoyable at any age. Read it for it's content value, not to judge the writer.
    RoseCS More than 1 year ago
    A great Christmas tale to put you in the spirit of the season. A bit lengthy but worth it. If you perfer shorter stories, Philip's Real Christmas Story is a must.
    standup More than 1 year ago
    Much needed book for our times. Never heard of Glen Beck - but now I am glad my secretary gave this to me for Christmas. She told me I would love it and she was right. She is getting a bonus! Merry Christmas to everyone!