In A Grandfather’s Gift, James E. Smith, Sr. brings together his family history and his fond memories of growing up in Mississippi. In the introduction of this book the author is very upfront about his intentions, and what to expect.
Smith lets the reader know that he has not had any training as a journalist, and the book follows no specific plot, inviting readers to move on to the next chapter should they not find interest or “get bored.” The main point of “A Grandfather’s Gift” was to record his family history and the stories he loved hearing when he was a young boy.
Smith takes the story back as far as the 1800s, telling what he knows or what he has heard about his relatives over the years. Great grandparents, grandparents and his own parents all played a part in his life story and upbringing. There were parts of the family history that confused me, for instance, when someone was described as: someone’s grandmother’s sister (aunt of this person and wife of that person), friend next door kind of thing. At times it was hard to keep up. So I did what the author suggested and just moved on down a few paragraphs and read the next person’s story.
Throughout the memoir, I could feel how much Mr. Smith loved appreciated his life and his family. He talks about what it is like to live on a farm and the work he was able to do for extra money as a young guy. Remembering the days when you could buy a bag of chips, soda and a candy bar for less than $2.00, and how that made him feel rich after a hard day of working for that extra money.
I particularly liked the story of Thomas and Annie Mae Smith, the author’s parents: how they meet and their goal in buying their own farm. Thomas Smith often left to take jobs to support his family and Annie Mae’s non-judgmental personality insisted on a “live and let live” outlook on life.
I also had a couple of good laughs with the recounts of Smith’s memories. From helping to save a little girl trapped under a car after an accident, to learning how to change gears in a truck when he learned how to drive.
With everything said, James E. Smith, Sr.’s family should be very proud of their family history and furthermore, proud of James for putting it all together, along with family photographs in this book. I especially love the cover. I think it grasps the idea behind the entire book and is just beautiful.
While A Grandfather’s Gift is going to cater mostly to Smith’s family, I am sure that lovers of history will also find many parts of the read enjoyable. I learned a lot about what it was like long ago in Mississippi and laughed along the way.
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