If "Chicken Soup for the Soul" is the appetizer of an inspirational meal, then the Chocolate series is the meal's crowning glory: dessert. Although the format (dozens of short, personal anecdotes to tug at the heartstrings) is familiarly chicken soup-ish, Allenbaugh's Chocolate series is a cut above, primarily because she culls her tales from professional (though little-known) writers and motivational speakers. This installment, which follows such bestsellers as "Chocolate for a Mother's Heart" and "Chocolate for a Woman's Soul," focuses on the blessings women give and receive. Seventy-four contributors offer powerful tales of healing, of forgiveness, of moments of epiphany or self-understanding. One woman drives a deaf 6-year-old boy from Florida to Memphis to sit on the lap of a signing Santa who actually understands his wish list; she reflects on this blessing given as a reminder of the glory of human individuality and special-ness.

Some of the chocolate in this collection is dark or at least bittersweet, as contributors struggle with cancer, divorce, eating disorders and blindness. Other women write of the pain of giving birth to premature babies--some of whom make it, and some who die in their arms. These poignant tales offer surprising depth for a collection of this genre, tackling tough issues with grace and sensitivity. Women from many walks of life will appreciate this book, which is a blessing in its own right.

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