Friday, May 27, 2011

The second best book I've read this year! - The Secret Gift by Ted Gup

The Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness - And A Trove Of Letters - Reveal the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup

Gup, an investigative reporter, received a suitcase full of family items upon his maternal grandmother's death.  The suitcase contained items like his grandmother's baby album, wedding pictures, and letters.  In the top of the suitcase, he found an envelope containing a notice from the Canton, Ohio newspaper dated December 1933 seeking those in need during the height of the Great Depression to write of their troubles, on the condition of anonymity, to B. Virdot, who would like to give $10 to 75 families in need.  In addition, there were letters from 150 individual seeking assistance and a bank book detailing gifts of $5 (the equivalent of $100 today) to each of these 150 individuals.  B. Virdot was Gup's maternal grandfather, Sam Stone.

Gup undertook the task of tracking down descendants of the recipients of B. Virdot's gift and conducted over 500 interviews.  The book includes the text of many of the letters, along with stories of the families his grandfather's gift touched.  But it is also the story of his grandfather's life and his grandparents' marriage.  In learning about the families helped by his grandfather, Gup also uncovers many secrets about his grandfather's life. 

The parallels between the families in need during the depression and our current economic climate are timely.  The family stories are fascinating.  And the difference between those in need in 1933 who would never seek charity and those in generational poverty today who depend on the government for their support is striking. 

Gup has a web site with photos, additional letters, and more information at - it's worth checking out along with this book!

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