I’m not the book club type. I read a lot but for the longest time, I didn’t enjoy talking about the books I read. They’re private, and so are my feelings about them, they’re something that is all and only mine. Then I began reviewing as a way to get stuff out of my head. I also forget a lot, which doesn’t make discussing easy. But I am friends with other reviewers and when one of them suggested we talk about books (gasp!), I wanted to do that with this specific group of people. Letters Never Sent is the book we chose for our first book club.
I’ve had this novel on my list of books to read for a while but kept steering clear. I wasn’t feeling strong enough to read it. Not right now. Never right now but yeah, someday, sure. The book club brought that day closer, and suddenly it felt like the right time. I’ll be honest (am I ever not honest here?), part of why I’ve been reluctant to read it is that I try to avoid what makes me sad. Many of us have been feeling particularly vulnerable lately, with the pandemic and everything else happening, and I have too. It’s easier for me to read about kickass women fighting deadly viruses than about lost love.
And I was right. Letters Never Sent is beautifully written, with great, realistic characters, but it’s awfully sad.
After her mother Katherine’s death, Joan comes to Lawrence, Kansas, to take care of her belongings and sell the house. There’s a lot going on in her own life, but right now, she’s here to deal with the end of another life. In doing so, she finds out that Katherine wasn’t the cold, unloving woman she thought she was but rather a woman who had known passion and love and had lost them in tragedy.
Once again, there’s a lot more to the story than what I can share without spoiling. There are a couple of very clever twists, and contrary to appearances and despite what I wrote above, the feeling I was left with after I finished reading was definitely not one of sadness. I wouldn’t say hope exactly, but something positive, and warm. The journey to get there however, like Katherine’s and Joan’s, was harrowing.
Letters Never Sent is Sandra Moran’s debut novel and my first by her. The author died a few years ago, which is one of the reasons I was reluctant to read this book. It’s very impressive for a debut novel, especially the way Moran navigates the back and forth in time, the language. There are some inconsistencies in the characters’ behaviour, which bothered me a little, but all in all, it’s a pretty good book.