We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign To Embrace Gratitude and Grace

Dutton. Nov. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780593183250. $25. HIST
Journalist and author Kiernan (Girls of Atomic City) sheds insight on the life story of Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879), who was born shortly after the American Revolution. Widowed in 1822 with five children to support, she turned to poetry and literature, ultimately becoming editor of the influential Godey’s Ladies Book in 1836; a position she held until age 88. Her passion, throughout the turbulent 1800s, was for Congress to grant a national day of thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. She lobbied successive presidents, eventually convincing Abraham Lincoln to proclaim a day of gratitude in 1863, among the midst of grief during the Civil War. Kiernan describes how Hale’s influence created a lasting impact on American society and details how the myth of a Pilgrim feast was not part of her envisioned celebration. The author continues by spotlighting the integral place that giving thanks had in worldwide traditions, and the measurable positive benefits of gratitude on health and well-being.
VERDICT Thanksgiving can often get lost in the commercialization of the holiday season, but this history of its origins puts the holiday in a fresh perspective. Readers seeking an inspiring story of persistence and achievement will appreciate.
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