Zanna’s Gift: A Life in Christmases by Orson Scott Card

Zanna’s Gift: A Life in Christmases
by Orson Scott Card
ISBN – 13: 9-780765-358356
Rating: I’m leaving this one un-rated out of sheer love for this book. I’m emotionally biased towards it.

When the Pullman family lost their eldest son to an unexpected illness just before Christmas, it was devastating to all of them, but especially to four-year-old Suzanna. She shared a special bond with her big brother. A strangely gifted child, Zanna loved to draw, but Ernie was the only one who was able to see the pictures in the curious patterns she made. Sadly, he never saw the Christmas drawing she had made for him that year.

Suzanna grew up to be a famous artist, but to her family, that last painting she made for her big brother was her most important work.

This is the story of that gift, and how it inspired the Pullman family to keep alive the spirit of love, imagination, and hope for generations to come.


At only 144 pages, Zanna’s Gift is a short but incredibly touching Christmas story – definitely my favourite one. I bought it when I was working at Coles bookstore last year, and I cried through the entire story. I read it again tonight, and once more cried through it.

Zanna’s Gift has no epic plot, no romantic interests, no great climax or cliffhangers. It’s a wonderfully written portait of Zanna and her family, from the time Zanna is four years old until she dies of old age. Zanna’s brother Ernie dies before Christmas when she is four years old. Unable to give him the picture she has drawn him, the picture presides over each Christmas so that she will never forget what it looks like and will be able to “show” Ernie once she dies and they are re-united.

Orson Scott Card has written a completely heartfelt family story, even as sad as it is. Would anyone be touched by the idea of family presented in this book? Yes, I hope so. Would anyone be as emotional over the story as I am? No. Not unless you understand the pain of losing a sibling (or child). Card presents the shock, lose, grief and coping that comes with a family death quite accurately. Both times I’ve read this story has brought me to tears because I know what Christmas is like when you suddenly don’t have your brother there anymore, and how much that effects the rest of your life. The way Card writes just pulls on my heartstrings (and my tear ducts).

Even without such an emotional connection to the story, Zanna’s Gift is still a well written family story of Christmases and the things that change – and the things that stay the same. Heart-wrenching, heart-warming and heart-felt, this book (novella, almost) will remain my favourite Christmas story and I highly recommend it.


3 thoughts on “Zanna’s Gift: A Life in Christmases by Orson Scott Card

    • Nope, not just sci-fi! He’s also written a couple of really good fantasy books, and a series called Women of Genesis (centered on women mentioned in the Genesis section of the bible). Zanna’s Gift is definitely my favourite of his non-sci-fi, though. Thanks!

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