Published: May 2007
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.
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.