ISBN-13: 9780312426989
Publisher: Picador
Published: May 2007
257 pgs

Dear Goat,

How does one fall in love? Do you trip? Do you stumble, lose your balance and drop to the sidewalk, graze your knee, graze your heart? Do you crash to the stony ground? Is there a precipice, from which you float, over the edge, forever?

I know I'm in love when I see you, I know when I long to see you. Not a muscle has moved. Leaves hang unruffled by any breeze. The air is still. I have fallen in love without taking a step. When did this happen? I haven't even blinked.

I'm on fire. Is that too banal for you? It's not, you know. You'll see. It's what happens. It's what matters. I'm on fire.

As ever,

Helen MacFarquhar, a 42 year-old divorcée and a bookseller, stumbled upon the above anonymous love letter when she was sorting through her pile of mails one day (there are more to the letter in which I did not post). Because the letter is written with such longing and passion, she was intrigued by the mystery surrounding it and even wondered if a secret admirer had sent her this letter. She could think of no one initially because she knew almost everyone in town; moreover she liked flirting around and coaxing her patrons into buying books from her.

It became part of her obsession to an extent that whenever someone speaks to her in everyday terms, she would start to imagine and wondered what if that person is the one who had penned that letter. Until a day, twenty-year-old Johnny Howell, a college student and her part-time assistant picked up this letter when she had asked him to fetch a bottle of wine and thought it was from her and had meant for him to read it.

As if being struck by cupid, he gradually fell in love with her from then onwards. On the other hand, Helen thought he was the one and through a series of misunderstandings, they consummate and began their secret affair. However, their relationship became a chore as they had to stay in low profile but we all know that one could not always hide the truth forever. Helen was aware of this too, thus she had decided to come clean with her mother, Lillian when she and Helen's grandmother decided to spend some time in Helen's house. Plus, Helen's eleven-year-old daughter Emily was also coming home from camp vacation.

But before Helen disclosed her secret to Lillian, to her surprise she discovered a shocking secret about her mother that in years to come, she would think about Lillian's secret (this is where the twist comes in) and how that love letter will always remind her about her affair with Johnny.

I encountered a few surprises myself while reading The Love Letter. First, it was a good surprise when I came upon this book at a booksale. I became intrigued with the blurb so I bought it, not knowing that Helen's secret lover is in fact a twenty-year-old boy (the blurb stated "Helen is swept up in a fiercely tender affair with a thoroughly unsuitable suitor"). I should have guessed it but I was so caught up with the thrill of finding more bargain books, haha.

The Love Letter is a forbidden love story mixed in with a twist. Helen is one captivating character: she is independent, opinionated, bossy and flirtatious and at the same time, she is vulnerable too. I have to confess her character bothered me a little. Aside from this and the age difference being the main issue (no matter how passionately in love she and Johnny are, somehow I still cannot picture them being lovers but more like mother and son), the other thing is Helen frequent usage of the 'F' word irked me at times (perhaps it is her style of venting her frustrations?), but I thought this diminish the overall effect of the book.

I can't think of anything to say about Johnny though. Perhaps he is indeed in love with Helen, after all. I wonder if he would still think of her after he and Helen moved on their own life. Would he look back at the relationship the way Helen did? Why Helen look back of her past is natural and made you think about the whole stuff if you get to the end of the story, in which I can't tell you as it is yet another surprise that had totally thrown me off-guard. I do not know if I should pity Helen or just laugh over the whole episode, but I have to say the suspense definitely keep me engrossed if not the forbidden affair.
10 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    now isn't that a beautiful cover? I would have bought the book based on the cover and the title alone. This is going right on my wishlist Melody. Thanks for the review :)

  2. Debi Says:

    Probably not my type of book, but I have to say the whole concept of finding the letter and whatnot sounds really intriguing.

  3. The Bookworm Says:

    The blurb would have grabbed my attention too.
    Great review, this sounds like a good read.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Okay that is the most romantic love letter! Sounds like a perfect beach read for my trip to Hawaii.

    I hope you enjoy The Uncommon reader. :)

  5. Alice Says:

    I like that cover, Melody! The story is quite interesting. Thanks for the review!

  6. Ladytink_534 Says:

    I remember seeing the movie based on it a couple of years ago but I haven't read the book.

  7. Julia Says:

    The premise sound good though, and the thought of an love letter always get to me, in good way :)

    But that was a great review!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Melody, you write such lovely reviews. They make me want to read the books on sight.

  9. Iliana Says:

    Melody, you are right Helen is not the most likable of characters. Still I remember when I read this book I really liked it. I think it was the whole love letter and bookstore thing going on :)

    I've not read anything else by Cathleen Schine but I do have another of her books on my shelf so one of these days...

  10. Melody Says:

    Violet - Yes, that cover is lovely, isn't it? I'm glad that you'll be adding this book to your wishlist!

    Debi - It is, Debi! I really enjoyed the 'mystery' part, that's where it really intrigued me the most!

    Naida - Thanks! :) As I mentioned, I was intrigued by the mystery of the writer that penned the letter, but the rest of the characters are okay.

    Matt - I thought the pet names in that letter are so cute, haha. I hope you've a great trip in Hawaii! And I loved The Uncommon Reader! :D

    Alice - Yes, I loved the cover too!

    Jen - I'll have to find this movie, now I'm curious! ;)

    Julia - Yes, love letters are so romantic, don't you think? ;)

    Kristy - Thank you! :)

    Iliana - I agree. The story is fine with me, but Helen really annoyed me at times, LOL.

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