Book Review: The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale
Philip Van Doren Stern
Read by Edward Herrmann

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Classic Christmas fiction

When I found out that the short story that inspired the movie It’s a Wonderful Life was narrated by the late, great Edward Herrmann, I tracked it down immediately to give it a listen. It’s difficult to give a rating and review that is unbiased and not compare the original story to the movie. The basic idea that Stern was going for came across easily enough—a single person affects more than they think in the lives of those around them. Not knowing what has George contemplating suicide and thinking the world would be better if he hadn’t been born, or even really knowing what kind of man he is, it’s a little difficult to be as connected to him as I would have wanted to be in a story like this. And in the end, while he is certainly affected by more than the loss of his wife to a rival, it could just as easily be missing her presence in his life and leads him to want his life back, rather than deciding his life is worth living after all. So bringing it back around to the movie, the extended version of this story does a much better job of first laying out the problem and then getting to the change of mind and heart. But the original story is so short, it might still be worth a quick read. The actual story part of the audiobook was about 25 minutes long, with an afterword that doubled the length, and Edward Herrmann an unsurprisingly great job with the narration.

Find out more about The Greatest Gift

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

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