Wake County Book A Day Staff Pick, which is where I recently picked up this one. The great thing about the staff picks are that they run the gamut of genres. I picked up Juliet and The Talk-Funny Girl from these blog posts, and many others. And usually, they are available almost immediately and not on a long waiting list, like other 'staff' picks. And those other 'staff' picks are what's on the NY Times top ten lists and EVERYBODY is reading them. As usual, I like what is good that EVERYBODY is NOT reading. And that's what librarians in Wake County apparently do best: read quality,"un"popular books. Right up my alley.
And this one is no different. Wow. Wow. Wow. A gem. I absolutely fell in love with this book right away. And coincidentally, I just got one of the popular books off the waiting list, Before I Sleep, after being on the waiting list for well over three months, but gave it to Tim to read so I could dig into this one.
**SPOILERS ABOUND. DON'T LET ME RUIN THIS FABULOUS BOOK FOR YOU. YOU MUST READ THIS. ALTHOUGH, IT'S MORE ROMANCE AND CHICK LIT.**
Both have a subject matter dealing with amnesia. That's as far as I know about Before I Sleep (and that's all I want to know because I *do* want to read that when Tim finishes).
In Last Letter, Jennifer Stirling wakes in a hospital after being in a car accident. Her husband is by her bedside, and they both look at each other in strange ways. She doesn't recognize him; he doesn't recognize the way she looks at him.
We slowly learn about the accident, about who Jennifer is. We learn that she feels violated when her husband has sex with her but she thinks, that's what she's supposed to do. Eventually, she finds a letter...a letter from a lover...addressed to her. And she starts rummaging for more letters. She finds more - these well-written, full of passion, love letters to her, from a lover signed "B." She has no idea who B. is and tries to figure out who he might be in their small circle of friend.
The era is mid-1960s. She's a beautiful woman married to a wealthy man but her role is to be quiet, host parties, and be pretty. She shouldn't work, have an opinion about what's going on in the world, or in her husband's business, and her husband has no problem 'nipping it in the bud' publicly if she dares says a thing...which she does as the amnesiac Jenny.
The book takes us back and forth in time: before the car accident, where we meet B. and Jenny and the passionate love affair, and after the accident, when Jenny is trying to figure out the pieces of her life, who she is/was, what her relationship is with her husband, and then, who is B.
I love the storyline of a married woman having an affair. Although, it's in the 60s where it's even MORE taboo, Jennifer Sterling is a pretty strong-minded woman dealing with her own path to happiness vs. what families expect their daughters to be back then: just married to good husbands without a care of whether they should be happy in life.
But it's also a story of star-crossed lovers. The accident occurred when Jennifer was leaving her husband to meet B., as he left for New York (this takes place in England). She never made it; he thought she stood him up to stay with her husband. Four years went by before they found each other again and re-kindled the affair but unfortunately, Jennifer had a child and, again, fate kept them apart. Or did it?
At this point, the novel goes 40 year ahead to 2003, where a news reporter stumbles upon these letters and decides to find out what happened to these star-crossed lovers. Did they marry? Did B. turn his back? Did Jennifer return to her husband? Moyes keep us guessing until close to the end, and introduces us to Ellie, the reporter who is also having an extramarital affair.
It's truly a wonderful story of love and passion and poetic and just beautiful. These novels are what make me grateful for writers that can bring such a journey for me into another era.