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

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 8 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

An inspiring account of America at its worst-and Americans at their best-woven from the stories of Depression-era families who were helped by gifts from the author's generous and secretive grandfather.

Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered $10, no strings attached, to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit 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 assist his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever witness.

Moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope contained in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase 75 years later, Ted Gup initially set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives all over the country who could help him flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that Mr B. Virdot's gift had on each family. Many people yearned for bread, coal, or other necessities, but many others received money from B. Virdot for more fanciful items-a toy horse, say, or a set of encyclopedias. As Gup's investigations revealed, all these things had the power to turn people's lives around- even to save them.

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 unearths deeply buried details about Sam's life-from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to felonious efforts to hide his immigrant origins from U.S. officials-that help explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need. Drawing on his unique find and his award-winning reportorial gifts, Ted Gup solves a singular family mystery even while he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. In A Secret Gift, he weaves these revelations seamlessly into a tapestry of Depression-era America, which will fascinate and inspire in equal measure.

Watch a Video

 

About Ted Gup

See more books from this Author
Ted Gup is a legendary investigative reporter who worked under Bob Woodward at the Washington Post, and later at Time. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the the George Polk Award and the Worth Bingham Prize. The author of The Book of Honor, Gup is a professor of journalism at Case Western Reserve University.From the Trade Paperback edition.
 
Published October 28, 2010 by Penguin Books. 384 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Self Help. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Secret Gift

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Former investigative reporter Gup (Journalism/Emerson Coll.; Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life, 2007, etc.) unravels the knotty but fascinating story of an anonymous act of benevolence performed in an Ohio town imploding under the pressure of the Gre...

Oct 18 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

In a book grown out of a New York Times op-ed piece that drew a huge response, Gup (The Book of Honor) explores an unusual act of generosity by his grandfather, Sam Stone, during the Great Depression

Sep 06 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

In a book grown out of a New York Times op-ed piece that drew a huge response, Gup (The Book of Honor) explores an unusual act of generosity by his grandfather, Sam Stone, during the Great Depression

Sep 06 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

The Wall Street Journal

See more reviews from this publication

Virdot's checks, who frequently hid the darkest period of their lives from their children or grandchildren, Mr. Gup's grandfather had a past he never shared.

Nov 06 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

Star Tribune

See more reviews from this publication

The homely pleas from desperate people provide a window into day-to-day life during the Great Depression. The stories are repetitive, however, and Gup might have made the book stronger by paring them back.

Dec 11 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

Los Angeles Times

See more reviews from this publication

A journalist discovers the anonymous generosity of his grandfather during the Great Depression.

Nov 07 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

San Francisco Chronicle

There's no record of how many letters came in - estimates range in the three or four digits - but ones that made the cut ended up in the envelope, and eventually in Gup's possession.

Dec 21 2010 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

Chicago Tribune

Gup makes much of his grandfather's buried past in the book, but in truth what Gup learns about the man, whom most knew as Sam Stone, is not perhaps as heady or terrible as Gup leads readers to believe it may be;

Feb 14 2011 | Read Full Review of A Secret Gift: How One Man's ...

Reader Rating for A Secret Gift
81%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 192 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×