This is my first review here in my blog. Thanks to Jennifer Hawkins for trusting me with her story and her book. I hope I’ve done justice to her work.
The Gift Giver by Jennifer Hawkins is a heart-wrenching memoir that shares the story of a young wife and mother’s journey after losing her husband. Jennifer doesn’t waste any time in plunging you into her story. She simply wakes up one morning to find Mark gone. We meet Mark only briefly in the first few pages and then he dies. No tragic car accident; Mark simply doesn’t wake up one morning. Jennifer struggles to accept his loss and find a way to cope with all tasks and decisions required when she would much rather sink into grief.
Jennifer tells a compelling tale – drawing you in and letting you feel the warm kitchen, see the sunny office, and hear the children’s voices. Her loving family and neighbors buoy her, offering support and advice. The family is relatively well-off and I found myself occasionally wondering how someone with fewer resources or people to draw on would survive a similar tragedy. But this is Jennifer’s story.
Just three days after his death, Mark begins speaking to Jennifer. He tells her why he died and gives her guidance in dealing with their young sons and other matters of import. He also tells her that he will always be with her. Both boys also become aware of their father’s presence although to lesser degree than Jennifer. I know many people who believe in and some who have experienced this type of visitation, but the lengthy conversations Jennifer has with her husband seemed to stretch credulity for me. If this was fiction, I might have simply overlooked this as hyperbole, but The Gift Giver is a memoir.
Ms. Hawkins writes beautifully, crafting a haunting tale out of one of life’s great personal tragedies and for that I applaud her. She doesn’t shrink from the unpleasant tasks required right after a death nor does she sugarcoat her experiences. The memoir is a page-turner – I always wanted to know what happened next.
As a former competitive swimmer and real estate investor, Jennifer’s status provides more cushion, economically and emotionally, than many young widow find. Yet losing one’s husband when you have two small boys to care for and raise is no easy task. Jennifer Hawkins steps up, handling her sons’ loss and grief with poise and empathy. If you can look past the author’s life of privilege, the emotion here is real and raw. Jennifer shares everything and that realness comes across on every page. You sense the author’s true goodness and her drive to do the right thing. She is blessed with an abundance of love and support and thankfully recognizes that as few of us do. As I read, I wanted her to succeed, to overcome her challenges and thrive. In the end, she does just that.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and the writing therein. It’s a fast read but dense with emotion. If you do plan to read it, buy yourself a box of Kleenex too.