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Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives behaviors help mold our own? In Unexpected Gifts, that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys weaving yesteryear with modern life until finally, she gains enough clarity to make the right choices.
Struggling with her bothersome, lifelong affliction, she looks for clues in the diaries and tangible souvenirs of her past relatives’ lives, hoping for a better understanding of herself.
With Ms. Mallery alternating each chapter between past and present, I was reminded of T.C. Boyle’s WORLD’S END, but unlike WORLD’S END, UNEXPECTED GIFTS covers many more decades of American history, and the author’s recounting of events such as The Depression, Suffragist Movement, immigrants’ contribution to the Ford Motor Company and Empire State Building construction, Vietnam War and Woodstock is powerful.
Then there’s the surprise ending, as Sonia realizes her friend and her father share something in common.
A wonderful story that should serve to remind us that in this fast-paced world we live in, we should never forget such precious American history.
So many historical events and times are covered from Woodstock and Vietnam to the depression, emigration/immigration and the poor conditions people were forced to endure once arriving here. Even the Titanic is briefly touched on!
I have never read a book that wasn’t a textbook that was able to successfully cover so many time frames in such little space, with the accuracy you really would expect from reading the journals of those who had actually lived in those times.