Unexpected Gifts

When Ancestors Come Back to Help

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
277 Pages
Reviewed on 04/09/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Growing up, I had always been fascinated by the faces and outfits of my ancestors and wondered what their lives were really like. Then my grandmother sat me down and told me to write some names on the backs of their photos, since she was in her 90’s and after her, who would be there to do it? That got me thinking. Was this cousin really killed as a child by a streetcar? Did my great-great spinster aunt in her late eighties actually blow a whistle to hail a cab? What was it like for my relatives leaving Europe and arriving at Ellis Island? Were they scared? Frustrated?
Years later, lying in bed with my then two-year-old daughter, I was reading a short story my mother had written, and as I glanced down at this little being nestled up against me, I suddenly realized that there were actually three generations in bed with me.
Hence, my book, “Unexpected Gifts,” where the main character Sonia, a confused college student fighting her addictions and forever choosing the wrong man, gets some helpful answers from an old, attic steamer trunk, filled with family diaries, journals, letters, and mementos.


S.R. Mallery, Gold Medalist winner of the 2016 READER'S FAVORITE Book Awards for Anthologies, has been labeled nothing short of 'eclectic'. She has been a singer, a calligrapher, a quilt designer, and an ESL teacher. As a writer, History is her focus and is woven into her stories with a delicate thread.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite

Reading S.R. Mallery’s first novel, Unexpected Gifts, is like exploring a large wooden chest, full of valuable treasures. The main character, Sonia, is a college student, majoring in psychology. Sonia is the only child of Sam and Lily; Sam is a Vietnam veteran who lost the use of his legs as a result of a war injury. He has never accepted his fate and spends his days in anger laced with alcohol. Sonia too has difficulties in dealing with relationships and the real world. Lily decides to share the history of her and Sam’s relationship, as well as those of several ancestors, with Sonia. By encouraging Sonia to read the diaries and journals, as well as see meaningful souvenirs from the past, Lily gives Sonia much insight into the family history. Eventually, these new insights lead Sonia into understanding the past. She also gains clarity about her personal relationships and the decisions she is making in her own life.

Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery takes the reader on an intriguing journey; not only does the reader become engaged in one young woman’s adventure, they must also wonder about the life experiences of their own ancestors. Historical events are told from the perspective of the individual, rather than from a societal perspective. Ms. Mallery’s clear and descriptive writing style adds to the substantive quality of this work. This is a book to be savored, as there is much information, as well as a captivating story about one family greatly affected by the events of their times. A thought-provoking read indeed!