The worst thing about this book of short stories is it’s almost impossible
to pick a favorite. The title story, "The Gift of the Magi," is probably O. Henry’s most
well known story. It’s about a young couple that can’t afford to buy each other a
Christmas present. They both give up their dearest possessions to get the money to buy
something. Then, just like the other stories in this book, there’s a twist at the end.
This is one of the things O. Henry stories have in common. Something
unexpected happens at the end, and it will usually tug on the reader’s heartstrings and
show the reader what true human nature is all about. The other thing the stories have in
common is that the main characters are all ordinary men and women. Some are down on their
luck. Most are trying to be someone they’re not—or trying to turn into the person they
want to be.
A couple of my favorite stories in this book are “Springtime a
la Carte” and “The Last Leaf.” In "Springtime a la Carte," Sarah types daily menus for a
local restaurant while she agonizes over the fact she hasn’t heard from her fiancé. “The
Last Leaf” is about a woman named Johnsy who's sick with pneumonia and is waiting for
the last leaf to fall off a vine before she dies.
I can’t share the
endings to these stories, which are the best parts. You’ll have to get the book yourself
to find out.