About the Book:
As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will her naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.
As someone who is fairly ignorant of World War I history, I soaked up the details of Julia’s Gifts as Philadelphia-native Julia and Canadian-born Peter become immersed in the horrors of wartime France.
One of the things I enjoy about Ellen Gable’s writing is her treatment of the whole character – body and soul. I’ve come to expect stories illumined by the Catholic faith that never shy from the physical realities that ground us as human beings. Julia’s Gifts delivers on both counts, honestly conveying the brutality of war illness and injury yet keeping hope alive through a faith that overcomes even the most hopeless of circumstances.
I loved the premise of a young woman storing up gifts for her future “beloved.” Even today, many have created such specific and elaborate expectations for their future spouse, courtship, wedding, etc. that they risk missing what God is setting before them.
December 17, 1917
The bustling streets of Center City Philadelphia shimmered with electric lights, heralding that Christmas was near. Julia Marie Murphy lifted her head and gazed upward. The night sky was filled with snow clouds, the air brisk. She pulled on her gloves and buttoned the top of her coat. Her thoughts turned to her future husband. Dear God in heaven, please protect my beloved.
Tens of thousands of American men had already enlisted to fight in this “Great War.” The gentlemen that Julia knew seemed anxious to join, and Julia thanked God that her three brothers were too young to fight.
In a few short weeks, it would be 1918. All of her father’s friends and acquaintances expected the war to end soon, hopefully before the middle of the year. But 1918 held far more significance for Julia. This would be the year that she would turn 21.
She approached Lit Brothers department store, admiring the display windows that were outlined with colored electric lights. Julia was thankful that it was Monday. If it were Thursday, the ban on electric lights (in support of the war effort) would mean the windows would be dark.
Julia stared, transfixed, through the window at the tall display. Shimmery red fabric hung from a back wall, a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch lay on top of a cylindrical pedestal. Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag: $12.25, almost 20 percent of her annual salary. But it was beautiful and every man needed one. The price notwithstanding, this would be a perfect gift for her beloved. Yes, it was extravagant, especially during wartime. Yes, there were less expensive items she could purchase. It didn’t matter. This was the ideal gift.
After purchasing it, she took it to the engraving department on the second floor. Behind the counter, the tall, lanky middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache smiled. “What would you like engraved on this?”
“To my beloved, next line, all my love, Julia.”
His eyebrows lifted. “I’m certain the gentleman would prefer to have his Christian name engraved on this lovely timepiece. Don’t you agree?”
“Well, yes, I imagine he would. But I don’t really know his name or who he is yet.”
The man’s mouth fell open and he stuttered. “I’m..I’m…s…sorry, Miss. I…I don’t understand. You’ve bought an expensive pocket watch for someone you don’t know?”
Julia sighed. She shouldn’t have said anything.
“Please just use the words I gave you.”
The man nodded and regarded Julia with an expression of suspicious curiosity, a look one might give a person in an asylum.
“How long will it take?”
“For the engraving? Ten days. Sorry, Miss, but you won’t have it in time for Christmas.”
“That’s all right.” Julia turned and walked a few steps and heard the salesman mumble, “Now there’s an odd girl. Buying a gift for someone she doesn’t know. Tsk tsk.”
Sighing, she checked her own wristwatch and hurried out of the store to begin the three-block walk to her trolley stop. If she didn’t get there in time for the five p.m. streetcar, she would be waiting half an hour.
This year Julia was determined that she would meet her beloved, the man for whom she had been praying these past four years. Why hadn’t she met him yet? Some of her friends were already married. Her beloved was out there and she would find him. Yes, 1918 would also be the year that she would meet her beloved.
Each December, Julia wondered what she would buy her beloved for Christmas. Last year, she searched different stores but found nothing special. She finally discovered — and bought — a brown leather pocket journal at a specialty store at Broad and Bigler Streets. She didn’t know whether her beloved would be the sort to write in one, but it seemed like an appropriate gift, especially since it had a delicate leaf embossed on the cover. The year before, she had bought a sterling silver Miraculous Medal because her beloved would be Catholic.
That first year, her mother suggested that she begin praying for her future husband. After a few weeks of doing so, Julia felt inspired to do more. It had been the week before Christmas, so she decided that she would buy or make him a Christmas gift each year until they met. With no job and no money that year, Julia knit him two pairs of socks, one blue-green and one green-brown, with finely-made yarn that her mother had given her.
The fact that she had made or bought gifts, and had spent hard-earned money for her future husband, had not pleased her father as he thought it too impractical and sentimental. Her mother, however, had declared that it was a beautiful gesture. Of course, if Mother knew how much she had spent on the most recent gift, she was pretty certain her mother wouldn’t be happy.
The Blog Tour:
November 1: (#OpenBook) Plot Line and Sinker
November 2 : Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith
November 4: Karen Kelly Boyce
November 6: Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog
November 7: Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire
November 10: Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom
November 11: (Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post) Plot Line and Sinker
November 12: Patrice Fagnant MacArthur, Spiritual Woman
November 14: Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists
November 17: Barb Szyszkiewicz, Catholic Mom
November 18: Cathy Gilmore, Virtue Works Media
November 19: Erin McCole Cupp
November 20: Virginia Lieto
November 21: Elena Maria Vidal, Tea at Trianon
November 22: Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller, The Divine Gift of Motherhood
November 23: Leslie Lynch, author
(U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author:
Ellen Gable is an award-winning author, Marketing Director for Live the Fast, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. However, the roles she loves the most are being wife to her husband and mother to their five sons, ages 18-30. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband of 35 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario Canada.
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Ellen-Gable/e/B002LFMXOI
THANKS FOR STOPPING BY! STAY A WHILE AND LOOK AROUND. LEAVE A COMMENT. SHARE WITH A FRIEND. IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU SEE, PLEASE SIGN UP FROM MY AUTHOR NEWSLETTER TO KEEP UP-TO-DATE ON NEW RELEASES, EXTRAS, AND HOT DEALS!