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Download A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample A Secret Gift: How One Mans Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression Audiobook, by Ted Gup Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,074 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ted Gup Narrator: Mark Deakins Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2010 ISBN: 9780307578044
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Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered cash gifts to seventy-five families in distress. Readers were asked to send letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author’s grandfather, Sam Stone, was inspired to place this ad and help his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever endure.

Moved by the stories of suffering and hope in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase seventy-five years later, Ted Gup first set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives to flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that B. Virdot’s gift had on each family.

But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable-retiree persona he’d always shown his grandson. Gup solves a singular family mystery even as he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A wonderful reminder that economic hardship can bring suffering but can also foster compassion and community.”

    Boston Globe

  • Selected for the November 2010 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathy Sarlog | 2/20/2014

    " The premise of this book is intriguing; the author focuses on the effects of an anonymous gift of $5 to 75 families during the height of the Great Depression in the city of Canton, Ohio. An ad was placed in the newspaper offering this gift, and the author locates and interviews the descendants of those who responded to the ad. These letters are fascinating, as are the memories that the descendants share, and I would have liked more of this and less of the author interpreting the details and making sweeping generalizations about the character of people and the times. Though I agreed with much the author suggested, I found his style heavy-handed and manipulative. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sharon | 2/20/2014

    " Wonderful, wonderful, well written, so thoroughly researched. History, genealogy. Students need to read this to understand the Great Depression and the effects on people living through it. Perhaps I understand my grandparents a little more. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nancy Brady | 2/18/2014

    " While, generally, nonfiction is not my choice of reading material, I found this book of stories about the events of the Great Depression to be very compelling. B. Virdot, an alias of Sam Stone (the grandfather of the author), put a small advertisement in the "Canton Repository" in December 1933. That small ad spawned letter upon letter that he answered with a check for five dollars (of the many he actually received, he chose to answer 150 of them.). Ted Gup, the author, obtained these letters nearly twenty-five years after his grandfather's death, and began to track down the families of the recipients. In so doing, he discovered the world of the Great Depression through the stories of these families. Further, he discovered and related the story (and subterfuges) of his grandfather's life, too. The book was very illuminating, and certainly explains so much of the frugality of the generations that lived through the "Hard Times". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina Redmond | 2/14/2014

    " A nonfiction book about the author's grandfather. He had done an act of kindness during the depression that only a few people knew about. The author found out after his grandfather had died and in researching it, found his grandfather had a past that only a few also knew about. Interesting stories of his grandfather's background, the depression and the families affected by the grandfather's act of kindness. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Amrutaprabhu | 2/7/2014

    " The backdrop that the book has been written with is truly inspiring. I could sympathize with the people that sent the letters during that difficult time. I also understand that the author wanted to intertwine his grand father's story with the letter and reveal his grandfather's story gradually. But unfortunately, the weaving has not been done well and thus makes reading the book extremely boring! In all due respect to the people, their letters, difficult times of GD and the author's grandfather's gesture of helping, the story-telling has actually killed the stories! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeanne | 1/27/2014

    " Although I found it very interesting to read about people during the Great Depression, it would have kept my attention better if it had about half as long. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shonna Froebel | 1/22/2014

    " I saw this book on the new book shelf at the library and it intrigued me. It continued to do so throughout. When Ted's mother was moving, he came into possession of a suitcase full of documents including a bunch of letters addressed to a Mr B Virdot. At first Ted was distracted by other things, but when he began to examine the letters and ask his mother questions, he discovered a family secret. Mr B Virdot was a name his grandfather used in 1933 to make small donations to needy individuals in the town of Canton. The letters sent in response to a newspaper advertisement explaining their circumstances and why the recipients would be grateful for any money sent opened a window onto the experiences of the Great Depression. Ted's grandfather, Sam Stone, only kept the letters from the recipients of money sent. Ted tracked down the descendants of the letter writers and found out the rest of their stories. Linking the letters to the larger stories of the writers was eye-opening and particularly significant in light of the current economic situation. The stories are touching, sad, and hopeful, and the honesty of the writers comes across. Most were embarrassed to admit need, proud of the hard work they were trying to do, and many wanted to pay the money back at a future time. Some lives ended sadly, but others were stories of success. Many showed how the offer gave hope in a difficult time. This is a really interesting bit of history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julia | 1/12/2014

    " The stories were fascinating but the book became repetitive and lost me about 3/4 of the way through. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Moira | 1/5/2014

    " I cried almost the entire time I was reading this book; not because of sadness (though the stories contained within are certainly heart-wrenching), not because the similarities to the world today struck close to home (thought they did), but because through all the loss and need expressed in the letters, the beauty of man's kindness to man shines. The timing of the book is apt, and the ability to compare the gift of B. Virdot during the Depression to the government assistance of today was thought provoking to say the least. How much Americans have changed, and how little the world has. I think I may need to read this again, but perhaps during a more prosperous time in my life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robyn | 1/3/2014

    " The story is a really good one, it's true and demonstrates a lovely act of kindness during one of America's most difficult moments in its history. As a read I found it slightly repetitive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Debbi | 12/19/2013

    " Interesting story...fascinating concept...not executed as well as I'd hoped. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cassi Campbell | 11/12/2013

    " Great look into the Great Depression. I learned a lot from this book - very affected by the personal stories. I am not usually a fan of non-fiction, but it was engaging enough, although I did feel like the author could have used more storytelling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carl Phillips | 11/7/2013

    " A really moving look at life during the great depression of the 30's. An inspiring account of how proud people endured the hardships, too proud to ask for charity. A really good book! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janeene | 9/24/2013

    " 2.5 stars - think I expected something more "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephanie | 5/19/2013

    " Interesting and enjoyed the true life accounts and investigative work to share the history of the families. But far too lengthy without incremental substance and excessively repetitive. Would have rated higher if this version had been edited significantly. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 4/3/2013

    " I enjoyed parts of this book and was touched by the overall message. It was just a bit long and repetitive for my liking. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jen Russell | 2/13/2013

    " Interesting accounts of the depression, but after about 1/2 way through, I started to lose interest. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 B | 9/23/2012

    " This book provides yet further evidence that this was indeed the Greatest Generation. I don't know what it is about the worst of times that brings out the best in people, but it seems this is the case. A well written book and one I would recommend to everyone. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jean | 3/21/2012

    " Uplifting and inspirational...but more befitting as a human interest short story in a magazine than book format. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura de Leon | 10/16/2011

    " A fantastic portrait of life during the Depression, and one man that made a small difference to many lives. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Natalie | 9/19/2011

    " Somewhat inspirational, but I also found it boring. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ayelet | 5/18/2011

    " Heartwarming stories but the jumping between specific letters, his grandfather's life and the Depression in general gets a little confusing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Catherine | 5/15/2011

    " I was touched by the personal glimpses into what individuals and families went through during the Great Depression. It wasn't a quick read, but it was worth it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Grace | 5/7/2011

    " The author made a discovery of old letters of his grandfather's. Finding out what became of these Depression- era people's lives was just fascinating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 5/2/2011

    " Great read! Could not put this one down. Made me more grateful for what I have!!!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 4/24/2011

    " What a cool book. I loved the way it was written, describing the life of the giver as well as following the stories of receivers. It really tugged on the humanitarian in me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ulrika | 4/10/2011

    " A very interesting book about 'how one man's kindness- and a trove of letters - revealed the hidden history of the Great Depression', with particular emphasis on Canton, Ohio. Recommended reading! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ayelet | 4/3/2011

    " Heartwarming stories but the jumping between specific letters, his grandfather's life and the Depression in general gets a little confusing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judy | 4/1/2011

    " I would have given this 4 stars, but there was time when it really dragged on.
    I loved the story and the history of that era. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Janet | 3/29/2011

    " A great story about a gift given to some families in Canton, Ohio during Christmas 1933 by an anonymous person. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judy | 3/28/2011

    " Very thought provoking. Gave me a much better picture of life during the depression.
    An individual's desire to work and horror of charity are attributes that today's "entitled"
    could choose to emulate. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 3/24/2011

    " Didn't finish. Great concept, but so many people's stories to remember. "

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About the Narrator

Mark Deakins is an actor whose television appearances include Head Case, Star Trek: Voyager, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His film credits include Intervention, Star Trek: Insurrection, and The Devil’s Advocate. He recently wrote, directed, and produced the short film The Smith Interviews.