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BOOK REVIEW: THE GIFT
BY PETE HAMILL
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Pete Hamill crafted a really great piece of literature when he wrote The Gift.
It is hard to believe in today’s books of hundreds of pages and tons of words that a book of just over a hundred pages and just enough words could be so interesting.
Hamill has written about a short period in his own life. The period is actually the time spent on a furlough from the Navy during the Christmas holidays of 1952. He had just finished boot camp and returned to his home in Brooklyn.
Hamill was anxious to get home and reunite with the girl he had left behind.
Kathleen had written him a “Dear John” letter but he didn’t believe it nor did he accept it. He was certain once he got back home everything would be straightened out.
While he was home and attempting to get Kathleen back he realized that his life was always void of certain things. These things that he wanted were never available due to family struggles. The struggles were brought about primarily by an accident that caused his dad to lose a leg. Although his dad never physically allowed the loss stop him from much of his everyday life it did prevent him from his ability to provide many things for his family and left his dad a shell of a man who spent much of his free time in a bar.
The Hamill family lived a meager existence in a tenement in Brooklyn and wanted for many things. However Pete, during his short hiatus from the navy, found that perhaps the things he missed most were really not material things.
Because of his father’s quietly brooding over his loss coupled by what it did to his family financially Pete never was able to get close to his father. Pete struggled through school and after dropping out he had enlisted in the navy.
The navy was able to provide him some of the material items that he had missed but while home he realized it was more than that he was searching for. As he struggled to reach out to his father he provided a surprise Christmas gift for his mother. This gift is not however The Gift!
On Christmas Eve Pete, after providing for his mother and brothers, went out into the neighborhood and entered the bar that his father has frequented for all the years. Pete was not sure how he would be received but he found that this “reunion” with his father was what he had searched for. And while there he received The Gift of which he had dreamed.
One of Hamill’s earliest books but also one of his finest. He writes about the common man and he does it so well because he has lived that life.
REVIEWED BY ALLEN HOTT
DO NOT REPRINT
WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, ALLEN HOTT
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