October 4, 2016

Mini Theme: Love Story by Letter, Plus Meeting a Friend!

By the way, we went down to Utah a few weeks ago, and guess who I got to see?!

It's Amy, from Sunlit Pages!
It totally made my day to meet Amy and chat in person! We only had about an hour, but I think we could have talked for several more. :) (It's a good thing she thought to get a picture.)
So fun!

It's funny, too, because she recently posted about the joys of e-readers, which is something I was thinking about lately, too. I never thought I would like my digital books as much as I do; mostly for their convenience on trips or at night.

I tend to get a lot of reading done on our trips, because nearly everyone else goes to bed early. :) Also, our time zone is an hour earlier than Utah, so that gives me an extra hour to read, right?!  Then there's the whole ordeal of putting kids to bed on the floor, if you know what I mean. Usually when we stay at my in-laws we sleep downstairs.

The dear children, who are already in bed later than their usual bedtimes (even with the extra hour), require a parental presence nearby to actually 1--stay in bed and 2--stop chatting. This is where the kindle app on my phone (or just the kindle itself) is worth its weight in gold. When it's my turn to stay downstairs while kiddos get to sleep, I can just read and read and read--in the dark.

This last trip, there was one night when it was just my youngest downstairs going to sleep, as his 2 older siblings were sleeping over at their cousin's house. He was on the floor in our bedroom and I was up on the bed. It was very dark in the basement. He kept saying, "Mama, I need some light!" Finally, I just had him scoot over and lay down next to him--still with phone in hand. Though I had it set on the black background and the lowest brightness, it was just enough light for him. I'm sure having me there helped a little, too. :) It still took him about 30 minutes to fall asleep, but I was happily occupied reading, so it was all good. By then though,  I was cold, so I got back into the big bed and snuggled under the covers. Still reading. Ahh, perfect!

Anyway, so this first book, Letters from Skye, is one of the ones I read on my trip a few weeks ago. It reminded me of a couple others I've read with a similar theme and format--hence the Mini Theme!

Letters from Skye, by Jessica Brockmole

2 stars: Can you choose who you love?

Elspeth Dunn and David Graham first begin their friendship by letter (as the title suggests!) She is a poet, living on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and he is an American student. She is married, but that doesn't come up very much until later.  As they correspond, they find a shared a sense of humor, and each finds a listening ear for whatever troubles they may be facing at the moment. He is a devil-may-care charmer and she a wistful dreamer who has never set foot off her island.

Then WWI comes along, and David immediately volunteers as an ambulance driver. He ships out to France. Well, things in Elspeth's marriage have been a bit on a downward spiral, and the upshot is that they agree to meet--if she can muster the courage to set foot on the ferry. You see, she is deathly afraid of crossing that water.

Now, in 1940, Elspeth's daughter Margaret is searching for answers. After a bomb hits close by their house, a blizzard of letters comes out of the wall, and her mother disappears--with all but one of the letters.

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There was some things I liked about this book. The World War I history was interesting. I liked the interaction of Elspeth and David, through the letters. The dual timeline kept things going, although it wasn't too hard to figure out where Elspeth went. Elspeth and David's story was a lot more interesting than the "mystery" Margaret was trying to solve, but what can you do?

It's hard to talk about what bugged me without giving out spoilers. Before the spoilerish talk, I will just bring up one phrase that encapsulates all that bothered me about this story. At one point Elspeth says, "You can't choose who you love." She uses that phrase as justification for all of what happens next.

Okay, STOP HERE and skip down to the next book if you don't want spoilers!!

Remember how I mentioned that Elspeth was married? And also, how she and David planned to meet up? So do you see where this is heading?!

You may or may not be able to choose who you love, but you can sure choose what you do about it! Then once you're married, you do choose who you love, and guess what? It's the person you already chose to marry. In fact, you have to keep on choosing to love them, through every hard thing that life throws at the two of you.

Anyway, off my soap box.

Yes. They have an affair, while Elspeth's husband is MIA. You know, I get that not everybody believes the same way I do about being true to your spouse. So yes, the very fact that they had an affair bothered me, but it's not like I expect every person around me to live like I do. What bothered me even more, though, was how David was painted as a hero (or a self-sacrificing martyr, depending on how you looked at it) for a later decision to back away.

Well guess what? It's a little late for that, buddy! And also, no matter how guilty she felt about it, Elspeth was the one insisting on keeping the affair going. So essentially, it's a relationship based on selfishness. He may have been slightly less-selfish than her. Maybe.

Indulge me here. Compare that with a somewhat similar situation in Anne's House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery. Anne makes friends with a neighbor who has a tragic story. Instead of her husband missing in action, Leslie's husband was--as far as anyone knew--permanently mentally disabled from head trauma. Leslie meets and makes friends with a visiting writer--Owen. They fall in love. Guess what? Owen is so honorable that he won't even mention it to Leslie, because he would not put her in the position to have to make that kind of choice. He goes away, so he doesn't have to be near her when he can't be with her. Leslie also doesn't mention it to Owen, because--how can she? She is completely NOT available! (They both tell Anne about it, at different times.) They both pine and suffer for it, but in the end, it all works out so much better. No regrets on either side.

That is heroic! That is unselfishly caring more for the other person than for yourself! A bit better foundation for "true love," don't you think?

Content: Some talk about David and Elspeth's "honeymoon" time in the hotel.

(Finished reading September 17, 2016.)

84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

3 stars: Charming, true story.

I finally just bought this! Helene Hanff and Frank Doel exchange letters for years--she an avid reader of the classics, and he the bookseller in England that she orders from.

Quick read. I'm off to watch the movie now and see how it compares. I'm a bit curious to see how they are going to make a 90 minute movie out of this 97 page book, all written in letter format.

(Originally reviewed in March 2015.)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

5 stars: A heartwarming and wonderful story.

Juliet Ashton, along with most of Europe, is still reeling from the effects of WWII, but her career seems to be taking off. A writer, she is searching for a book topic, when she happens to receive a letter from a man who lives on the island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Germans during the war. A simple request for help finding a book begins a friendship with him and the other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that will change Juliet's life.

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The text consists of letters and telegrams sent among several of the characters, a technique used here with great skill. I loved this book!

(Originally reviewed way back in March 2009.)

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Do you have any favorites in this format? What titles are missing from this list?


  1. Oh it was so fun to meet you, too! And yes, I totally get the need for an adult presence in the room to get kids to settle down when you're on vacation. Since I'm an introvert, I'm usually happy to volunteer for bed duty because it gives me a chance to recharge. :)

    1. I am an introvert too, but when I'm with family I want to be up where the action is! FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) kicks in big time. If it were people I didn't know very well I would be happy to volunteer every time!