Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Letters In Cardboard Boxes

Letters In Cardboard Boxes
Letters In Cardboard Boxes by Abby Slovin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I first read this book 6/23-24/2011; I am reposting this review to celebrate it winning the First Horizon award for 2012!

Book info Genre: Literary fiction Reading level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free eBook ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My Synopsis: Parker was raised by her grandmother Dotty while her parents, anthropologists, traveled the world and rarely visited. Because Parker was never able to travel the world and often felt lonely (especially when her parents declared, when she was 12, that she could stay by herself in their apartment rather than always staying with her grandmother), she and her grandmother developed a habit of writing each other letters, pretending they were writing from various locations around the country, and around the world. Parker saved those letters in a cardboard box in her closet.

Since her late teens, however, Parker cut off these fanciful letters. Now, at 29, she rarely even thinks to check her mailbox, so she doesn’t know how long the letter has been waiting in there – only that it was written five days ago. The letter is written in a different hand than her grandmother’s, and says that her grandmother is very ill, not likely to live the night, and would Parker mind donating Dotty’s clothes and taking over mentoring a high school girl, Tanya, whom Dotty has been mentoring on Wednesday nights. As Parker sits trying to understand this, the phone rings – it’s her grandmother. It turns out it was a false alarm, but Dotty still wants Parker to take over mentoring Tanya. Dotty had just forgotten about the letter until she was contacted as to why no one had shown up to mentor Tanya.

My Thoughts: This strange event begins Letters in Cardboard Boxes, a poignant and moving story about Parker and her relationships – or lack thereof – as she tries to come to grips with the fact that Dotty is sinking into dementia. It deals with how Parker deals with the situation, how she develops relationships with Tanya, and Jerry – Dotty’s next-door neighbor. Scattered throughout the book are letters – letters from Dotty to Parker; Parker to Dotty; and mysterious letters that Parker discovered in another cardboard box, love letters from a mysterious boy to Dotty from when she was younger. The story shows how Parker grows from a neurotic woman with little self-confidence to a blossoming into a person very similar to Dotty.

This book is very well-written and created in me a strong, visceral reaction – I found it very uncomfortable at times, because it reminded me of similar times with my grandmother. This strong reaction shows that Ms. Slovin knows how to connect with her readers at an emotional level, and how to elicit strong reactions through nothing so much as the ungilded truth. Despite the highly competent writing, at first I didn’t like the book – because of the strong reaction it provoked. Once I realized this, I saw the story from a new perspective and realized that this is a true work of art. It should be appreciated as such and therefore I highly recommend that you read this story and tell all your friends to as well.

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