Author: Abby Slovin
Published: Sept 9, 2011
Winner of the First Horizon Award for superior work by a debut writer, Letters In Cardboard Boxes tells the story of an eccentric grandmother and her granddaughter alongside a series of fantastical letters they once exchanged. Their letters once traversed the East River to help Parker escape the loneliness of a childhood without her globe-trekking parents and communicate during her turbulent teenage years. Now, nearly a decade later, Parker begins to rediscover the evidence of this letter writing tradition, as well as the family’s untold stories and, unexpectedly, letters from her grandmother’s own youth that paint a very different portrait of the woman who raised her.
Letters carries us through the universally-shared experience of loss and the process of coping with life’s unexpected twists and turns. Through unusual and bold characters, the story moves through some of its heavier themes with honesty and humor.
REVIEWTo be honest, I have been trying to write this review for over a week. It is extremely difficult because this novel struck a cord in my heart. When something this beautiful comes along it is hard to put into words how you feel about it. At least for me… I am not the best reviewer by far. But, I will try.
“Letters in Cardboard Boxes” is a sentimental and sincere novel. It follows three generations of women as they struggle to hold on to each other. Dotty is the fun-loving, effervescent grandmother and mentor until she begins to fall ill. Parker is Dotty’s granddaughter, and even at the age of 29 cannot possibly imagine the loss of her rock, Dotty. Tanya is a teenager with an old soul that Dotty mentored after school.
First off, the writing of Abby Slovin is brilliant! It pulls you in and makes you want to get to know the characters and find out what happens next in their lives. Here are some quotes from “Letters in Cardboard Boxes” that I think definitely showcases the writing talent of Slovin.
-“Parker felt the cement walls in her tiny apartment begin to expand: the “just in case” scenario was unfathomable. She did not have a single memory that did not include her grandmother in some way. The woman was central, essential even, in a way that Parker very rarely acknowledged.”
-“Denial can be so convenient when it suits your purpose”
-“Fact is just fiction with different storytellers.”
-“Boys your age are not men just yet, and some of them never will be. Give a man some time, Parker, but not a moment longer than you know for sure he’s not a good man. You must try your very best not to settle for anything less than a good man. He must be solid and decent and kind.”
The goodreads synopsis is spot on when it says “the story moves through some of its heavier themes with honesty and humor.” This book could have completely gone into depressing, dark territory in a really heavy way with the subject of Dotty’s illness and state of mind. However, Slovin continued to focus on the ties that bind the three women together and they continued to find new, innovative ways to be in each other’s lives. So, there was a heaping dose of inspiration to be absorbed from this novel.
Letters was a peek into a beautiful relationship full of unconditional love. One that is rare in these times. It was refreshing to see how Parker battled her grandmother’s aging. For an author to be so flat out honest within the comfort area of the character is, well, remarkable. And then, to experience the growth of the characters as their comfort area expands and shifts is equally remarkable.
I would highly recommend this book to any person of any age. It is a poignant story that almost anyone can relate to which translates into an excellent novel.
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