Book Review: Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

Sure, Christmas is over, but according to this book, as early as December 26, you can start planning your Christmas jar for next year.

I learned about this book in the fall, when my daughter’s swim instructor heard I was an English teacher and invited me to hear a visiting author at their church. I could not attend e(I had work), but I researched the author, and saw that his book Christmas Jars is fairly well known. It was short and inexpensive, so I gave it a shot. I read it in two sittings while recovering from a mild case of COVID, and it was a nice little Christmas read, but I don’t think it will change my life.

This novella is all about the message, not the style or the story itself. It’s a little cheesy, like a Hallmark Christmas movie (I don’t watch Hallmark Christmas movies, but I’ve seen trailers), and it’s a novella, not a novel. The length of the novella limits the character development and complexity of the plot, making it a little dogmatic.

The story follows a young journalist named Hope (one of the reasons I bought the book was it promised to follow the journey of a journalist who wanted to break an amazing story—I teach journalism and newspaper, so I was intrigued). She experiences a break-in while she’s out on Christmas Eve, and when the police are at her place investigating, someone leaves a jar full of money for her. The thought behind the jar stays with her, and she decides to use her journalism skills to investigate, learning that many people have been blessed with such jars over the years. Now, she is determined to find out who left her the jar—and why.

The way she goes about it is through deception: she lies to her target/source by pretending to be a college student working on an assignment (rather than a journalist). This seemed like it would be a major point in the plot, but it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought (hoped?) it might be—otherwise, it may have been a good point of discussion for my journalism students: when is it okay to lie to a source?

In this case, there was not a really pressing reason to lie. She wanted to know who had been leaving the Christmas jars, and no one who knew about them wanted to speak about it. But it wasn’t a huge conspiracy or anything like that.

What she discovered is that some people keep a Christmas jar in their house, collecting change over the year, and then on Christmas, they give the money to someone they think is in need. While it’s a nice idea, there are other ideas out there that are just as nice—creating blessing bags for the homeless, donating time or money to shelters, etc. It’s not that Christmas Jars are bad ideas, but they aren’t the only way to bless someone throughout the year.

There were some coincidences that happened to characters that were just too unbelievable for such a short novel. I am guessing the message was supposed to be that coincidences happen and perhaps are even divine, but without other things happening, too, it was just so hard to believe. The characters lacked development and they seemed to lack human flaws. It was me being TOLD a story, not being SHOWN and not EXPERIENCING it, and because I was only told almost a summary of what happened, it was difficult to believe it in a meaningful way.

I would loan out the book to anyone who wanted a nice, quick Christmas read, but I’m not sure I would recommend purchasing it. If you want to follow the spirit of the book, wash out a glass jar, and start saving change from throughout the year. On Christmas Eve in 2023, find someone you think is in need, and gift them the jar to see how it might help them, but don’t claim credit, and don’t let yourself be seen.

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