The Tin Whistle

Fiction - Holiday
108 Pages
Reviewed on 10/27/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite

Set in 19th century Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and inspired by a true story, The Tin Whistle is an elegant tale that teaches the lesson: “giving is more important than receiving”. Kathleen Shoop has crafted a touching story, pure and simple, unmuddied by the chaotic agendas of the 21st century. The life of Jacob Gusky from orphaned Jewish boy to wealthy businessman is in juxtaposition to the lives of recently widowed Frannie Winston and her daughter Molly, left destitute by the death of Frannie’s husband. He had mismanaged his funds and now Frannie is on the street and Molly is in a shelter for children. Rummaging through his old possessions in the attic of their mansion, Jacob Gusky opens a small package containing the tin whistle that a Catholic boy had shared with the Jewish boy at Christmas in the orphanage. He is struck by the memory of what it felt like to have nothing, deciding to use his great wealth to make a difference in the lives of others in his community: Jewish, Catholic, or any other faith. Kathleen Shoop weaves the predicament of Frannie and Molly into Jacob’s world in a masterfully told tale of Christmas and unconditional love.

Reviewing The Tin Whistle left me unusually wordless in my search for terms of praise high enough for Kathleen Shoop’s beautiful tale. Kathleen is a master writer, pure and simple, like the tale itself. Her research into the historic events that underpin her story is evident at every turn of the plot. Authenticity, clean and unadorned, sets this elegant work apart from other Christmas tales of the subgenre, far apart indeed. Without any judgmental comment on the 19th-century plight of the people in her story, Kathleen provides an atmospheric setting and an immersive feeling that immediately draws one into her world. Please put The Tin Whistle on your reading list and your gift list for your most beloved friends. Kathleen Shoop has given all of us a treasure.

Lisa McCombs

When nine-year-old Jacob Gusky is awakened on Christmas morning to the excited voice of his roommate Amos, he is burdened with the knowledge that their religion eliminates them from the celebration happening among the Christian orphans downstairs. As Jacob and Amos await inclusion in the festivities, it becomes clear that Jews are not allowed to participate. Their friend Michael receives both a whistle and a drum and offers the tin whistle to Jacob for the boys to share. This selfless gift paves Jacob’s future for selfless giving when he later becomes a successful business owner in later years. In another time, Frannie Winston falls upon hard times when her husband dies, leaving his wife and young daughter destitute. Frannie is forced to vacate her home and leave eight-year-old Molly at the Home for the Friendless until Frannie can find employment. With her daughter safely sheltered but away from her, Frannie walks the streets searching for security that she strangely finds in Gusky’s Department Store.

The Tin Whistle by Kathleen Shoop is a beautiful story of hope, love, and giving. Proposed as a holiday story, The Tin Whistle offers an O. Henry attitude that resonates at any time of year. Kathleen Shoop writes concisely with a powerful command of the written language that draws in the reader and plucks at heartstrings. Her message is powerful, and the details are vivid. Although set in the 1800s, The Tin Whistle offers charm for any setting or period as well as embraces a variety of readers.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Jacob is a Jewish orphan in a Christian home for abandoned and orphaned boys. Christmas and Santa have arrived, and he's hoping, dreaming, there'll be something under the tree for him. His Jewish faith doesn't recognize Christmas, but Jacob really wants to feel important, as if he's special enough to receive something of his own. When one of the Christian boys gives Jacob the tin whistle Santa had left for him, Jacob sees the joy in the other boy's face, the joy of giving. What he learns is that the joy of Christmas (or any day, for that matter) is not in the receiving but in the giving, and it's a lesson he takes into adulthood.

Kathleen Shoop's novella, The Tin Whistle, is an adaptation inspired by a true story of a businessman in Pittsburgh who shared his good fortune with orphaned children in the nineteenth century. His treasured tin whistle, which he claims was worth more than gold itself, provided him with a valuable lesson as an orphaned child. The story glosses over Jacob's adoption into a fine Jewish home and his aspiring career as a businessman, first working with his adopted father and then on his own. The poignant memory from his own childhood and that cherished tin whistle propels Jacob to use some of his wealth to reach out to others. This is a heartwarming story that will bring tears to readers' eyes and will be cherished for generations. Beautifully told and with an emotional message.

Edith Wairimu

The Tin Whistle by Kathleen Shoop is an inspiring holiday story based on the philanthropic work of Jacob Gusky, a Pittsburgh-based businessman. The year is 1854, and it is Christmas time in New York. In an orphanage, a Jewish boy excitedly wakes his friend. Despite Amos’s discouraging comments, Jacob cannot wait to find out what Santa has left for him. Below the spectacular Christmas tree, the boys hope to find presents with their names. Both are crushed to realize there are none left for them. Having received two presents, Michael Larson, the boys’ friend, gives Jacob his second present, a whistle that Jacob keeps to remind him of Michael’s gesture. By 1881, Gusky is a successful merchant. His time in the orphanage and Michael’s kindness inspire him to make Christmas experiences for orphaned children in Pittsburgh special.

The Tin Whistle is a beautiful story that pays tribute to a kind philanthropist who had a heart for orphaned children. It reminded me of the purpose of the Christmas season. The plot also follows the story of a desperate mother who hands over her daughter to an orphanage, promising to go back for her when she can provide for them. Her path intersects with Gusky’s, whose kindness changes the mother's and child’s lives. The story is even more touching and inspiring as Gusky is involved in preparing the presents for the orphans in the city. He also provides presents for all the children, regardless of their faith and background. The Tin Whistle by Kathleen Shoop is a delightful story with profound lessons on the meaning of Christmas.

Tanja Jurkovic

The Tin Whistle, written by Kathleen Shoop, is a beautiful, heartwarming novelette inspired by a true story. The topic of giving is presented with great care and attention through the account of the life story of Jacob Gusky, the owner of Gusky's Grand Emporium, the first department store in Pittsburgh, a husband and a father of three lovely children, who is leading an abundant life. But Jacob knows all too well what it means to have nothing. Remembering his time at the orphanage in Manhattan when he was young, Jacob goes through an emotional rollercoaster during the upcoming Christmas holidays while trying to make up a quick plan to give presents to every orphanage in Pittsburgh on time. Having his wife, friends, and employees by his side helping him in this endeavor, Jacob manages to come up with a solution that will bring joy to every child without a home or parents during Christmas.

I like how Kathleen Shoop entwines Jacob's story with another story, the life story of a woman named Frannie. She is a young woman who sadly, due to the change in her circumstances, is suddenly left widowed and lost everything, including a beautiful daughter that she had to leave in an orphanage because she couldn't take care of her child. In a chain of various events, and for lack of a better place to stay, Frannie sneaks into Jacob's shop to stay there one night. From that moment on, fate keeps bringing those two families together to fix the broken pieces, mend the sorrowful hearts and fill them with love and hope.

Kathleen Shoop tells this beautiful story about giving in a wonderful and approachable way, setting a tone bursting with emotions and an atmosphere filled with hope! It was a delight reading such an uplifting account of one man's life who truly knew what it meant to give to others. The Tin Whistle is a wonderful and perceptive read for everyone, especially during these upcoming Christmas holidays. It is well worth picking The Tin Whistle up and reading it surrounded with family and friends, sharing the joy of giving with one another, and hopefully with the rest of the world.

Joy Hannabass

Jacob Gusky, along with all the other boys at the Boys' Home of Manhattan in 1861, was excited to meet Santa and see the gifts he had brought them, but because he was Jewish, he received nothing. He had never been more hurt and embarrassed. Fast forward many years now, Jacob is a wealthy businessman who remembers what happened to him in his early life. He decides to make this Christmas special to all the children in surrounding areas who are orphaned and living in homes as he did, not only with gifts, but they were all to be wrapped and with name tags.

The Tin Whistle would be a really nice read during the Christmas holidays. I like that this story teaches how it is more rewarding to give than to receive. Kathleen Shoop does a wonderful job of writing this special story with just the right characters to fill your heart with love and joy. Being inspired by a true story makes The Tin Whistle even more special. Jacob Gusky is a good guy with a heart of gold and the means to help others. Molly and Frannie are sweet characters and represent families affected by circumstances that cause children to be given up to an orphanage. I like the way Shoop weaves everything together and comes up with an amazing ending that I wasn't expecting. I encourage you to check out The Tin Whistle and read it for yourself and to your children during the Christmas holiday.