Monday, April 14, 2014

Love Letters To the Dead (review)

4.5/5 stars

Very rarely is a book as lovely to read as Love Letters to the Dead (Goodreads | Amazon).  Something about this story, told in epistolary form through letters to famous dead people, just resonates and reads as genuinely authentic.

It all starts with a school assignment to write a letter to a dead person.  And Laurel does the assignment, pours her heart onto paper, writing words that she hasn't spoken or admitted out loud.  But at the end of the class she can't turn the letter in, she's been too honest, but she does keep writing.

She writes letters to cope with her older sister May's sudden death and to work through her idealized version of May in comparison to the reality of her sister.  But this book isn't just about May, it's about Laurel discovering herself, dealing not only with the guilt about her sister's death but her own problems as well.  She has to step out of the shadow of a dead girl and she does that through writing letters to dead people.
“May, I love you with everything I am. For so long, I just wanted to be like you. But I had to figure out that I am someone too, and now I can carry you, your heart with mine, everywhere I go.”
The writing is both elegant and simple.  There are so many quotes I want to pull from the book.  This whole review could just be quotes that make your heart hurt.  But I'd rather you just believe me and discover it for yourself.  This book is something special.  Though it's a heartbreaking story, with letters written to dead people mostly about her dead sister, in some ways it's still life affirming.  We're not reading Laurel give up, succumb, we're seeing her cope, grow-up and begin to become herself, whoever that might be.  She's flawed, makes mistakes, but most importantly, from the perspective of a reader, Laurel feels real and complex.  Books like this, internal character-driven stories, live or die by their protagonists and Love Letters to the Dead absolutely soars.

I received an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 

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