I read about Love Letters to the Dead in a number of places on the web and the idea of it intrigued me. I didn’t know if I’d like it or not but it kept niggling away at me from the back of my mind so I finally bought it. Once I got into it, I had to keep reading to the end.
Laurel’s first english assignment at her new school is to write a letter to someone who’s dead. She’s pretty sure her teacher wants them to write to some historical figure but she has a different idea. Her sister, May, had died the previous April. She had been high and took a dive off the railway bridge where they used to play a game called “Pooh Sticks” when they were younger. Laurel admired her sister and is lost without her. She decides to write letters to twelve famous people who died too young, who, like her sister, were terribly talented, charismatic, and somewhat messed up, looking for something but they didn’t know what.
Laurel addresses her first letter to Kurt Cobain because he was her sister’s favourite musician. She tells him all about her insecurities about starting high school and how her sister May would have known exactly what to do. She talks about her english assignment from the only teacher she knows at her new school. In her second letter, she tells him that she didn’t hand the assignment in because there are some things that are too personal to share.
When Laurel writes to Amy Winehouse and Judy Garland, she tells stories about her current life, how her mom left, and things she used to do with her sister. She’s looking for answers about why people do things that cause them to die, and for answers about how to live her life now, without her big sister. She writes to Janis Joplin and River Phoenix as well. But it isn’t until she finds the courage to write about bad things that happened to her because May hadn’t really taken good care of her that she realizes her sister wasn’t perfect and that she can learn from May’s mistakes and create a life for herself, that her memory of May could be more balanced without diminishing her love for May.
When I finished reading Love Letters to the Dead, I was still a bit unsure how I felt about it. As a Christian, I felt there should be other ways to find answers and get your head on straight again, but I also saw the cathartic nature of writing your ideas and questions down on paper, even if you’re writing to someone who can’t answer your questions. This is Ava Dellaira‘s debut novel and it was a very interesting story — one with many surprises including the ending. I’d recommend reading it before giving it to a teenager in your family — it might not be for everyone, and a certain maturity is required, I think, for someone to not get mired down in it. None-the-less, a worthwhile read. * * * *
To read the opening paragraph and a teaser from the book click here.