Grace Winston yearns for one last family Christmas before she leaves for England, but first she has to convince her brothers and sisters it's worth their while to come home. While her parents are happy that she's been accepted at Oxford University, they are pining for their family to gather together for the holidays. Grace talks her older brothers and sister into coming home, but then they must convince their other siblings: a brother who attacked their father to get money to feed his drug habit, and a sister who recently gave up alcohol and is raising her four young children alone. While Grace manages to bring them all together, she is soon wondering if this was really worth all the trouble she's gone through, especially when no one acknowledges her efforts to make this a Christmas to remember--until she receives an early gift that leaves her certain that everything will turn out all right.
Grace Winston had celebrated her eighteenth birthday a mere three weeks ago, the same day as Thanksgiving. There were no thanks in her house, no special foods prepared to celebrate her becoming an adult, nothing to mark the day as unique.
Her parents hadn't said "Happy Birthday" until it was time to go to bed. Even then, the acknowledgement had sounded more like "goodnight."
It's not Mama and Papa's fault. They can't help how sad they are. My brothers and sisters should have come like they said they would. They're not even making false promises anymore. All of them claim that they have other plans for Christmas, and we need to get over our selfish desire to have the family together.
For as far back as she could remember, that day has been one where her whole family showed up, until her oldest brother, Adam, decided that he had too much work to spend a week at his childhood home. Mark begged off the next year, claiming his wife's job required him to appear at the White House. The others never bothered to make an excuse the year after that.
Grace blamed herself for her parents’ depression this year, after they sighed and accepted the inevitable. She was so excited to have been accepted at Oxford and to receive a full scholarship, so they didn't have to pay for her education. Mama and Papa stared at her with eyes full of loss and resignation, but they never congratulated her for her accomplishment after she showed them the letter last week.