We Gather Together: Book summary and reviews of We Gather Together by Denise Kiernan

We Gather Together

A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace

by Denise Kiernan

We Gather Together by Denise Kiernan X
We Gather Together by Denise Kiernan
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Book Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Castle and The Girls of Atomic City comes a new way to look at American history through the story of giving thanks.

From Ancient Rome through 21st-century America, bestselling author Denise Kiernan brings us a biography of an idea: gratitude, as a compelling human instinct and a global concept, more than just a mere holiday. Spanning centuries, We Gather Together is anchored amid the strife of the Civil War, and driven by the fascinating story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a widowed mother with no formal schooling who became one of the 19th century's most influential tastemakers and who campaigned for decades to make real an annual day of thanks.

Populated by an enthralling supporting cast of characters including Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman, Norman Rockwell, and others, We Gather Together is ultimately a story of tenacity and dedication, an inspiring tale of how imperfect people in challenging times can create powerful legacies.

Working at the helm of one of the most widely read magazines in the nation, Hale published Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others, while introducing American readers to such newfangled concepts as "domestic science," white wedding gowns, and the Christmas tree. A prolific writer, Hale penned novels, recipe books, essays and more, including the ubiquitous children's poem, "Mary Had a Little Lamb." And Hale herself never stopped pushing the leaders of her time, in pursuit of her goal.

The man who finally granted her wish about a national "thanksgiving" was Lincoln, the president of the war-torn nation in which Hale would never have the right to vote.

Illuminating, wildly discussable, part myth-busting, part call to action, We Gather Together is full of unexpected delights and uneasy truths. The stories of indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, women's rights activists, abolitionists, and more, will inspire readers to rethink and reclaim what it means to give thanks in this day and age. The book's message of gratitude—especially when embraced during the hardest of times—makes it one to read and share, over and over, at any time of year.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"With engaging writing and fresh research, everything comes together in a thoroughly enjoyable package. Readers will find humor (Kiernan's take on turducken: 'a poultry nesting doll with gravy'), pathos (public events were canceled during the 1918 flu pandemic), and surprises (Pilgrims weren't connected to the holiday until 1939, when FDR attempted to change the date). Lots to consider, especially with Thanksgiving just around the corner." - Booklist (starred review)

"Packed with vivid character sketches, intriguing historical tidbits, and lucid meditations on the psychology of giving thanks, this unique chronicle casts [Thanksgiving] in a new light." - Publishers Weekly

"Kiernan traces the history of the formalization of Thanksgiving Day while reframing the holiday's sense of gratitude… [and] engagingly explores the economic, political, and cultural roots and consequences of holiday practice…Not as riveting as Kiernan's previous books but still a bright tribute to Thanksgiving's expression of gratitude and grace." - Kirkus Reviews

"We Gather Together reminds us of the importance of gratitude in our own lives, especially during our darkest hours. It uncovers the profound ways in which a seemingly simple holiday has helped shape American history and how it has brought solace during times of upheaval and loss. Kiernan reminds us of the healing power of gratitude." - Kate Andersen Brower, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Residence and Team of Five

"As a researcher, Denise Kiernan is skilled at finding the lost moments of our national conscience; as a writer, she is brilliant at explaining why these moments matter. Only a writer of Kiernan's ability can cut through great swaths of history to locate the germinating seed of a national movement that is still moving us." - Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Ballad and A Land More Kind Than Home

"We Gather Together is a surprising and enlightening gem of a book that reexamines the history of one of America's most beloved traditions. With her trademark wit, verve, and impeccable research, Denise Kiernan brings to full and vibrant life the characters and conflicts surrounding America's day of gratitude, and shows us how we might all reclaim its stirring power." - Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

This information about We Gather Together shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Denise Kiernan

Denise Kiernan is an author, journalist, and producer who has worked as a writer for more than 20 years. Her last two books—The Last Castle and The Girls of Atomic City—were instant New York Times bestsellers in both hardcover and paperback. The Last Castle was a Wall Street Journal bestseller, a finalist for the 2018 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award, and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. The Girls of Atomic City was a Los Angeles Times and NPR bestseller, named one of Amazon's "Top 100 Best Books of 2013," and has been published in multiple languages. Kiernan has been a featured guest on many radio and television shows, including NPR's Weekend Edition, PBS NewsHour, MSNBC's Morning Joe, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

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