The Letters is the story of Sam and Hadley, an estranged married couple who have recently lost their son, Paul. Hadley has relocated to an artistís colony in Maine while she awaits the settlement of their divorce. Sam has traveled to Alaska to stand on the ground where his son took his last breaths; Paul was working for Teach for America and had been assigned to teach in a remote Alaskan town when his plane got caught in a snowstorm and crashed. Though Hadley canít understand it, Sam feels the need to see the place where his beloved son died.
The entire book is written as letters between Sam and Hadley. As their letters become more honest and open, they reveal hurts and scars they have been carrying around. They reminisce of earlier times and slowly begin to heal their relationship while coming to terms with Paulís death.
While The Letters is an honest look at grief, it is a bit overemotional and melodramatic. Itís sappy, but then again, the subject matter is a difficult one to deal with. It is difficult to achieve that balance between poignancy and cheesiness; unfortunately, this book doesnít find it well.
An epistolary novel is interesting to read; there is no omniscience. All the information the reader receives comes straight from either Hadley or Sam and is limited by what they want to tell one another. However, some parts are a bit awkward. It is difficult to imagine that people would actually write sex scenes into their letters; it is obvious that these scenes were inserted for the readerís enjoyment. They just donít really fit into the story. It is interesting to read the variation in voice between Hadley and Sam. Using two narrators, one male and one female, to write each voice is a choice that pays off.
The Letters is a short, sweet novel about the nature of grief and its negative effects. While it isnít perfectly written, it still has a nice message that Luanne Rice fans will most likely enjoy.