Cover image for Esther's gift : a Mitford Christmas story
Esther's gift : a Mitford Christmas story
Karon, Jan, 1937-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2002.
Physical Description:
37 pages ; 16 cm
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Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Eggertsville-Snyder Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Grand Island Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library X Adult Fiction Being fixed/mended
Lancaster Library X Adult Fiction Holiday
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library X Adult Fiction Holiday
Audubon Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Readers flocked home to Mitford last Christmas, making The Mitford Snowmena New York Timesbestseller. In Esther's Gift, Esther Bolick is filled with the holiday spirit as she prepares to bake the annual batch of her famous-and utterly scrumptious-orange marmalade cakes. Right after Christmas Eve service at Lord's Chapel, she and Gene will deliver a two-layer marmalade to each of seven friends and neighbors, all of them favorite Mitford characters. Then Gene calculates what it costs to bake this legendary cake, and Esther is stunned. Is it worth it to spend so much money on people who haven't always measured up to her expectations? The answer is clear. She'll cut her list back-way back. This decision makes perfect sense until the lyrics of a Christmas carol steal into her heart, and help remind her what a gift really means.

Author Notes

Jan Karon was born in North Carolina in 1937. After a career in advertising, she began writing a column in the Blowing Rocket. The column, about life in the small North Carolina town of Mitford, centered around an Episcopalian minister named Father Tim. Her Father Tim stories were collected into a book and published by a Christian publisher. She is the author of A Mitford Novel series and two children's books entitled Miss Fannie's Hat and Jeremy: The Tale of an Honest Bunny. She has won numerous awards for her work including the Christy Award for A New Song and the Gold Medallion Award for A New Song, A Common Life, In This Mountain, and Shepards Abiding.

(Bowker Author Biography)

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Library Journal Review

Esther isn't so sure that she should spend so much time and money making her famous two-layer marmalade cake for holiday gifts but then she remembers the meaning of Christmas. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Swaddled in a pink chenille robe and wearing a mesh hair net, Esther Bolick lay sprawled in her recliner, staring at the ceiling. The view of the brass chandelier from Home Depot vanished; in her mind's eye she saw an imaginary row of two-layer orange marmalade cakes standing proud on her countertop. By tomorrow afternoon, the whole caboodle would be baked, filled, frosted, and ready to roll out of her kitchen as gifts coveted from one end of Mitford to the other. She and Gene would trot to the five o'clock Christmas Eve service at Lord's Chapel, then strike out in their van to make deliveries. Though she'd never been much on frills, she had for years longed to use paper doilies to set off her marmalades, and for a fleeting moment imagined a circular, scalloped doily with machine-made cutwork under each of her creations. However, a package of such doilies was four dollars, and that was four dollars she wasn't willing to part with. No, ma'am, she would never be using doilies, so why even think about it? In her imagination, the doilies disappeared and the cakes sat directly on cardboard rounds, which she'd cut from packing boxes found at The Local. While she was minding costs, she wondered what it was costing her to bake an orange marmalade these days. Though she'd formed a vague notion over the years, she was inspired to ask Gene to compute the actual figure. It seemed to her that a two-layer had once come to around four or five dollars. She didn't mind giving away a cake that cost five dollars, not at all, she'd been doing it for years, especially at Christmas, when the flat broke and lonesome seemed to have a particularly rough go of things. She reached over to Gene's plaid recliner, immediately next to her own, where he sat dead asleep and snoring. "Wake up!" she said, shaking his arm. "Whoa! What's th' trouble, hon?" "I need you to do somethin'." Esther knew she was a lucky woman to have a husband who actually liked doing things for his wife. The only other man she reckoned to be in that category was Father Tim-it seemed like he was always trotting around Mitford on some errand or other, he even did the grocery shopping. "I need you to figure what it costs to make a marmalade. I've got my receipt for th' ingredients." It was a whopper, too. She had blinked when she saw it rolling out of the cash register thingamabob. "What do you want to figure your time at?" asked Gene, the wheels already turning. "Why figure my time?" she said. "Just figure ingredients and divide it by seven cakes. Flour's runnin' around a dollar eighty-nine for a five-pound bag, sugar's runnin' around two dollars, eggs are highway robbery ..." "You can't get a realistic bottom line without throwin' in your time," said Gene, who had managed a warehouse for thirty-seven years. He adjusted his glasses so he could see her better while making this point. "Oh, law!" she said, exasperated. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to imagine all the up and down and back and forth, from cleaning the beaters to setting the finished product on the counter. "Say three hours a cake, start to finish-that ought to do it!" "What d'you think your time's worth a hour?" "I don't know, you're th' one to know such as that. Set a figure you think is right." He reached to the lamp table where he kept extra eyeglasses, old newspapers, notepads, and a calculator. "Ten dollars a hour!" "Fifteen!" said Esther, indignant. "You can't get fifteen for cake bakin'." Gene was already punching keys on the calculator. "How would you know th' goin' rate for cake bakin'? Besides, what about bad knees, lower back pain, bunions, an' all th' other mess that comes with th' territory? That ought to count for somethin'!" Gene shrugged. "I can't help if bakin' gives you a pointed head, you can't charge for it. You have to figure stuff like bunions as occupational hazards. How many cakes?" "Seven!" she snapped. "Maybe six. I don't know if Uncle Billy an' Miss Rose are goin' on this list." "Why not?" "After what she said to me at Easter?" "What'd she say?" "Don't you remember? She said she was glad to see how much I enjoy my own bakin'." Gene looked concerned. "But that's th' gospel truth, idn't it, Sugar Bun?" Esther was furious. Her husband was sixty-nine years old and still dumb as a rock when it came to real life. "That was her way of sayin' I'm fat!" "Fat?" said Gene, looking amazed. " Fat? I don't see any fat! Let me get over here an' see where there's any fat!" He hauled himself from the recliner, grinning to beat the band. "Set down, for Pete's sake, and stop this nonsense!" She would have bolted and run down the hall, but he got to her and pinched her arm before she could move an inch. "Ouch, dadgummit!" "See there, hon, that's not fat, that's muscle. Don't you mind that ol' woman." Before you could say Jack Robinson, blam , he leaned down and kissed her on the mouth and hugged her neck into the bargain. "Set down !" she said, gasping. "I hope you don't think I've got all day to lollygag. Tomorrow's Christmas Eve!" * * * Gene punched an endless succession of numbers, grunted, then started over. Several times he scribbled something on a notepad, and used a magnifying glass to better interpret the cash register receipt. After looking over his shoulder for a full five minutes and seeing the whole business go nowhere, Esther stomped to the kitchen to set out the bowls and pans, scrapers and spoons. "Forty-three dollars a pop!" said Gene. The color drained from his face as he made this announcement. "What?" She clutched her heart with one hand and held on to the countertop with the other. "Am I hearin' you right?" "You got your eggs, you got your flour, you got your sugar," Gene said, reading from his list. "You got your rough-cut marmalade, your sour cream, your heavy cream, your bakin' soda, your vanilla, your buttermilk, on an' on 'til th' cows come home, an' your thirty bucks per unit for labor." "Don't forget th' orange," said Esther, gasping. "I got th' orange ..." She hurried from the kitchen to the den and thumped into her recliner, where she sat, frozen as a mullet. "Then you got to figure your electric, that's sixty cents every sixty minutes you run th' oven." He ripped the tape from the calculator. "Comes to forty-three bucks a cake," Gene repeated, sounding hoarse. "Well, then." Esther caught her breath. "I'll have to go to my short list." "What's your short list?" "Out with Hope Winchester-she's young an' strappin', let 'er bake 'er own cake! Out with Ol' Man Mueller-he nearly ran me down th' other day when I was crossin' Main Street! Out with Cynthia and Father Tim-he can't eat sweets, anyway! Excerpted from Esther's Gift by JAN KARON Copyright © 2002 by Jan Karon Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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