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Reviewed by Tim Ballard for the Association for Mormon Letters:
…The book is a classic in its own right. To begin with, it reads much like a Dickens narrative (which is as good a compliment as any author might seek to achieve). Indeed, the author, R. William Bennett, clearly possesses that Dickensesque flair to turn a phrase, to pull the reader in, and to leave the reader, alternatively, joyful, sad, giggling, remorseful, and awestruck—all within a few short pages…
But Bennett’s wonderful literary flair informs only a fraction of the reason his book is truly a masterpiece. The real value of the story is found in its powerful ability to change lives. For it invites the reader to self-examine and seek higher planes….
…it is redemption at its best. In this sense, perhaps it is even better than Dickens’ original…
…I do believe that most every reader of this book will, upon putting it down, seek to fully fulfill God’s greatest command: to love one another. What better take-home message could one possibly hope for during this Christmas season—or for that matter, during any season?
J. Martinez for “Good Choice Reading”
The very first thing I loved about this book was how the author, Benett, attempted and succeeded at writing the novel in a similar style to the original Dickens classic.
The book is well written, making it easy to read, but not so easy to put down. In fact, there were quite a few times where I looked up from the book and fully expected to see snow out the window and decorations hung around. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Dickens, Scrooge and Marley, or simply a fan of Christmas.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars!
Marlene Harris for Escape Reality, Read Fiction
I finished this in one sitting. I sat down for lunch and got lost in the book. The language evokes the classic without going over the top about it. And it retells just enough of the original to refresh the memory without seeming repetitious. We know the story. A little familiarity is good. Too much would be boring. This is just right. Escape Rating: A+
The Bookaholic (blog):
… Well, thank you, R. William Bennett for the surprise. While it’s normally dangerous to toy with a classic, this companion was fitting, well-crafted, and it worked very well. I breezed right through it and find that it will be a wonderful piece to set alongside my own worn (but well-loved) copy of A Christmas Carol.
Geek Speak Magazine:
…I will say that Bennett has mastered a certain Victorian-ness of tone; the book reads like a nineteenth century work, and it has a cozy, nostalgic flavor about it. Also, I kind of dig the idea of Scrooge and Marley re-partnering in the afterlife to bring stubbornly resistant souls to the light, and I think that the Family Channel should option that idea for a TV series soonest. (Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn can star.) Finally, this is a bit cheesy, but I really like the cover of this thing.
Dad of Divas’ Reviews (blog):
This was a great spin off of a story that we all know and love. Too often in A Christmas Story you meet the character of Marley for the short glimpse you have at the beginning of the story, but that story is not his and you fail to know much about him. This story takes a different tack and shares the story of Marley himself. I loved the book and it was a short but fun and engaging read! It is a story of redemption that will stand the test of time! I would highly recommend this to all!
Chamber 4 (blog):
…Bennett is an above average writer and pulls off a more than decent approximation of Dickensian style. The book is well structured and paced. And I admit I got drawn into it, feeling excited for what I knew was going to happen (funny how retellings always manage to at least tap that vein). If you like Christmas books, or just really like A Christmas Carol, this book is a good pick up. If you’re looking for an easy Christmas gift for a grandparent or holiday book to stick in a guest room this winter, this is a good choice…
Cat’s Thoughts (blog):
… I couldn’t resist the chance to read the story from Marley’s perspective, and I’m so delighted that I did!
The book is written in a very “classics” style… It was very well written and plausibly done, and I enjoyed every page.
Brass Plates Bookstore (online):
Written in a voice reminicent of Dickens, “Jacob T. Marley” is a masterfully crafted story of remorse and redemption, sure to become a Christmas favorite.
Geoff Griffin for City Weekly:
Bennett has not only come up with an intriguing concept, he has also executed it well on a number of fronts. Part of the delight of reading this book is the expansive, Victorian style of the writing that provides a feast of words….
…Bennett makes getting to the anticipated conclusion an enjoyable ride, builds the life of an interesting character along the way and ends up creating a story worthy of becoming a holiday tradition in its own right.
“Marley was dead, to begin with.” So begins Charles Dickens’ classic, *A Christmas Carol.* But what if he was *not* dead to begin with? What if he had been alive for years before Charles Dickens’ narrative had ever begun? What would he have said? What would he have done? And how would his life have affected that most famous character, who we, at once, love to hate and hate to not love—Ebenezer Scrooge? This is the premise to the delightful, and very thoughtful, sequel (or better said, behind-the scene-quel) to Dickens’ masterpiece. Its title reveals the powerful theme of the tale: Jacob T. Marley.
The book is a classic in its own right. To begin with, it reads much like a Dickens narrative (which is as good a compliment as any author might seek to achieve). Indeed, the author, R. William Bennett, clearly possesses that Dickensesque flair to turn a phrase, to pull the reader in, and to leave the reader, alternatively, joyful, sad, giggling, remorseful, and awestruck—all within a few short pages. For example, note how he cleverly describes Nephew Fred: “Rather, the more he was pushed down by Scrooge, the more his joy seemed to flow out of him. It was like the light of a lantern assaulting the early evening dusk, when the dark only seems to strengthen the beam.”
But Bennett’s wonderful literary flair informs only a fraction of the reason his book is truly a masterpiece. The real value of the story is found in its powerful ability to change lives. For it invites the reader to self-examine and seek higher planes. We are taught, through the examples and experiences of the characters, that “we all ascend or descend in steps, the journey to the high road or the low taken in many increments, the sum total determining our eventual destination.”
Particularly during the Christmas season, many a reader loves to follow the life of Scrooge and feel the exhilaration of witnessing, once again, the familiar story of redemption. In many ways, it is the story of us all. It is the hope of us all. If the wicked and decaying Scrooge can become the best man in London, certainly *we* can elevate our not-so-bad selves to be worthy in the sight of God and man. If this is why we read *A Christmas Carol* (and watch it played out endlessly on television in all its many forms—from Albert Finney, to Mr. Magoo, to the Muppets), then Bennett’s version will not disappoint. For it is redemption at its best. In this sense, perhaps it is even better than Dickens’ original. For, with Marley and Scrooge working the scenes together, we are plunged doubly into the abyss of wickedness. Conversely, however, when they are, together, shot up out of the abyss, to the uppermost realms of joy, we feel doubly redeemed. (Lest I become a plot-spoiler, I will spare you further details.)
…I do believe that most every reader of this book will, upon putting it down, seek to fully fulfill God’s greatest command: to love one another. What better take-home message could one possibly hope for during this Christmas season—or for that matter, during any season?”
— Reviewed by Tim Ballard for the Association for Mormon Letters
The Christmas Gift Reviews“The Christmas Gift is a wonderful book that will touch you, change you, and inspire you.”
Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
“Bill Bennett has given us a marvelous story in the The Christmas Gift that illuminates the possibilities that come from giving a little understanding and what compassion can do to change our world.”
Ron McMillan, NY Times Bestselling author, Crucial Conversations
“It will be impossible for you to read The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett without being forever changed – 5 Stars”
Robert Busko, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer
Amazon ReviewsA “Powerful” Christmas Gift, December 11, 2009
By C. Peterson (Cedar Hills, UT)
The Christmas Gift was a pleasant surprise. I received it as a gift and had no particular expectations. I started the book late one night before bed, sometime later (well after midnight) I finished it in tears. (I actually feared that my sniffling would wake my wife who had long since dozed off.)
In the telling of this simple story Mr. Bennett delivers a powerful sermon on what it really means to be a Christian, to have our hearts full of the pure love of Christ and how charity changes everything. I think the reader will relate to any number of characters in the book at different times as I most surely did.
I liked it so much I purchased 10 copies to give to friends and family. The Christmas Gift is a simple but powerful story that is sure to change the way you look at others.
A “Gift” that will last a lifetime, January 26, 2010
By C. T. Davis
Bill Bennett’s “gift” is in telling a story that not only holds your interest, but remains in your thoughts long after you’ve finished his book. I can’t think of anyone I know who won’t be moved (and changed) by the wonderful lesson given in this poignant story so masterfully told by Mr. Bennett. I’m looking forward with great anticipation to future lessons from this terrific new author. This truly is a GIFT! Thank you.
More Like “The Lasting Gift”, January 26, 2010
By David B. Whittle
I started reading this book to critique it for Bill, but by the end of the first chapter I had
completely forgotten about being any kind of critic, since I was so absorbed in the story.
By the end, I was deeply moved and grateful to Bill for having written such a treasure. The
wisdom is compelling; the emotion is raw; and the writing gets out of the way of both.
Thanks, Bill, for the lasting gift that can be found in the pages of this book.
Perfect Reminder of The Best Kind of Christmas Gift, December 16, 2009
By J. M.
I couldn’t put the book down. I was captivated from the very beginning. It is short book that quietly reminds us the best gift we could ever give anyone – especially ourselves.
I am not a big reader so when I do pick up a book – it’s because I am trapped and part of the main character. Bill Bennett makes that happen from the very first paragraph. It has been a long time since I enjoyed a good book. I am starting to read it again for the 2nd time just so everything sinks in a little deeper.
The Spirit of Christ all tightly and powerfully bundled in a moving Christmas story!, December 14, 2009
By Jimmy Bailey
I LOVE this book! What a moving family story about realistic struggles!
Among Christmas tales, this one is of particular importance to me because the meaning, lessons, and power of the book have nothing to do with magic or fairy tales. Each of the characters seems to grow throughout the story. It was motivating to me. The book instilled more deeply in me the spirit of Christ. Highly recommended!
Don’t miss it!, February 18, 2010
By C. B. Ralston
Most readers will be able to relate to the characters in the story…either as a parent or as a student who relocates and struggles to find his niche. Great read for a Sunday School class or high school youth group. Bennett nails the abyss between the character’s actions and their real feelings. Don’t miss this book!
Phenomenal Debut, March 7, 2010
By Matthew Evans (Orem, UT)
This is his first novel, and Bill is a gifted writer. For the genre, this is the best of the “Christmas”
books I’ve read. Which is to say, if you read this, I defy you not to feel some kind of positive emotion at the end. I won’t lie, I got a little misty at the end. This novel definitely stays with you, too.
Great book for any Season, March 4, 2010
By S. Sumsion “Scott”
Very rarely do I come across a book that has this profound of an impact on me and my family. This book was so well written that I passed it on to my two sons who couldn’t put the book down, and continued to discuss the book and it’s message during the next several days.
This book is enjoyable, easy to read, and has a powerful message that is applicable to any time of year.
I just had to write you a note of gratitude for your book… As soon as I got [it] I stayed up and read the whole thing. I was weeping in my family room all by myself feeling silly yet inspired. The principle of forgiveness is probably one of the most important, divine acts we can learn in this life. You portrayed it in such a touching manner and I thank you. It should be a best seller!
First of all, thank you! I was so honored to read your book – I took it home over the weekend and read from cover to cover! What a fabulous story with an amazing message. You have done a fabulous job crafting a message that is so relevant in these times of increasing incivility.
Michelle Kettle @ KSL Television
“Getting it as a gift for all my friends this coming Christmas.”
“Your book brought tears to my eyes. It is so wonderfully written and such an inspiration to all of us. I have to say thank you. I have shared that wonderful experience with a few people and am sharing ‘the gift.’”
“Hey, your book was good! I almost cried!”
Lee – 16 Years Old
I absolutely loved it! I was in tears from chapter 10 on. It is a very thoughtful and inspiring story and one that everyone can relate to in one way or another. What a potent reminder that the gift of forgiveness is the most beautiful gift of all and will bless our lives like none other.
I also love its powerful reminder to not judge the motivations of others without first truly knowing them. I just think you did a wonderful job, Bill. Thank you! I hope you write more!
GREAT, GREAT, GREAT book! Loved The Christmas Gift! What a great writer you are… I am still wiping the tears away! AWESOME!
“Magnificent! That is the only appropriate word. Magnificent!”
5 Stars An Everlasting, Wonderful Gift!, September 5, 2010
This review is from: The Christmas Gift (Hardcover)
What if the person you needed to apologize to the most was the one that deserved it the least? That is the profoundly meaningful question explored in The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett. Highlighting the importance of forgiveness even under the most tormenting circumstances, The Christmas Gift successfully proves that compassion and forgiveness is the ultimate answer to all our worries and sufferings.
Packaged in a deeply moving tale of two young, sixth-grade boys who get off on the wrong foot in their first encounter, The Christmas Gift recounts the astonishing events that lead Scott and Ben to become great friends one day, all because they learned the power of forgiveness.
Scott has just moved into a new town and on his first day at his new school he meets Ben, the school bully who torments other kids. After intervening Ben terrorizing a fellow schoolmate, Scott becomes the new object of Ben’s everyday bullying. Following one-too-many unpleasant confrontations, Scott loses his cool and yells at Ben, in his anger, telling Ben everybody at school including Scott hates him.
Scott has been distressed for days over the yelling, which is not in his nature, and the hurt he saw in Ben’s eyes. Scott has a long talk with his father before he gathers up the courage to go up to Ben’s house and apologizes to him.
During the course of the time, Scott discovers that Ben has no real friends and when Scott finds out the true nature of Ben, the previously unknown good side of him, Scott sees Ben in a new light that is a far-cry from what everybody else see in him. Their friendship thus evolved into a strong bond both Ben and Scott has come to cherish to the end.
The meaningful message tucked away in this heart-warming tale of two young people is loud and clear as Bennett successfully directs the readers to the very core of the subject: how the gift of forgiveness could have a deeply positive impact on the lives of many just like the two characters in this story, their perspective about compassion forever changed. After reading The Christmas Gift, so will yours.
A poignant tale of great substance and inspiration, The Christmas Gift is a life-enhancing, invaluable lesson to people from all walks of life; a life-long lesson that should be carried forward from one individual to another, one friend to another, one family to another, and from generation to generation. An everlasting gift that will shape us all into forgiving, kind, caring and compassionate beings, The Christmas Gift is indeed a wonderful present we must gift not only to others but also to ourselves.