Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh

Ian Collins is an old man without his son. Patrick Collins is a young boy without his father. On his Christmas list are only three items. He wants the army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather's house. And he wants the dusty wooden soldier in Grandfather's attic--the one he is forbidden to touch.
Set in December of 1943, The Unfinished Gift is the engaging story of a family in need of forgiveness. With simple grace, it reminds us of the small things that affect powerful change in our hearts--a young boy's prayers, a shoe box of love letters, and even a half-carved soldier, long forgotten (summary from cover).

The writing and dialogue is a little choppy, and sometimes I felt like the story was developing at the speed of molasses. But once I become invested in the characters, especially the adorable 8-year-old Patrick, I found I really enjoyed The Unfinished Gift. My heart broke for Patrick as he was confronted with the death of his mother, his grandfather Ian's coldness and his father's absence at Christmastime. Like Katharine Townsend, the young social worker assigned to Patrick's case, I wanted to shake his grandfather and make him see what a special kid Patrick was. But as a stack of letters and an old wooden soldier slowly bring a change to Ian's heart, we see the loneliness and pain behind his cranky facade begin to lessen.

Each character in the book is marked by the loss of a family member, be it mother, wife, or son, but God is still able to bring about healing and reconciliation. This was a message that really resonated with me and made the story more moving. I wish the ending had been a little less simplistic, and some of the characters more fully formed, but I enjoyed reading this and am looking forward to starting the sequel, The Homecoming. I can't say I was moved to tears like the book jacket promised, but it did get me into the Christmas spirit.

Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you're in the mood to curl up with a simply written and uplifting Christmas novel, this is the book for you. It's not flashy or action-packed but it is a sweet story about second chances.

This book was one of my selections for All About {n}'s Holiday Reading Challenge.
Source: personal copy


  1. Excellent review. I liked The Unfinished Gift but didn't love it like I rather expected to - however, I do think it would make a great made-for-TV movie! I think the sequel is a bit better (it's called The Homecoming).

  2. Great idea Ruth! I can already picture Ed Asner as Ian Collins and maybe this kid as Patrick. Hallmark, get on it!

  3. Beautiful cover! I really like the looks of this one. I have found it hard to find a Christmas based book that has a lot of plot to them - but I certainly have found many that have a pleasant message - this looks like one of them.