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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: Lost Letter by Neil Mulligan

Lost Letter by Neil Mulligan
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Trade Paperback 382 pages
Book Source: the author
My Rating: 90/100

The newly wed Jimmy and Maggie McDougal learn the news of Maggie's pregnancy just weeks after Jimmy is called to duty in World War II. Frequent letters and their deep love for one another provide comfort while they are apart. But, suddenly, Jimmy's letters to Maggie cease and the Army confirms the worst of her fears. Alone, Maggie raises their daughter, Mary, who never knows her father.

Some sixty years later, Maggie is diagnosed with a terminal illness and eventually moves in with Mary, who becomes her caretaker. At about the same time that Maggie learns of her diagnosis, the Army, during a base closure, discovers a World War II letter addressed to her. While Mary is coping with a dying mother, a demanding job and trying to learn as much as possible about the father she never knew, the Army is searching for the intended recipient of the World War II letter. Will Maggie succumb to her illness before the Lost Letter reaches her?

My Thoughts:
There are three major themes explored in this story:
*Love and loss
*Mother and daughter relationship between Maggie and Mary
*The care of a terminally ill person, or more importantly, a parent.

Mulligan does an excellent job at picking through the complex layers of all three themes. He brought my emotions to the surface many times throughout this story. Regarding love and loss, we have Maggie and her husband Jimmy, who was killed towards the end of WWII. We learn of their deep love through Maggie's stories about their childhood and adolescence together. Maggie tells Mary all of this because I think she finally accepts that she is dying, and it's one of the last things she can give her daughter.

The relationship between Maggie and Mary is complex as well. Both women are strong and fiercely independent. They value both their own and each other's need for space and privacy. They are also a bit reserved when it comes to expressing their feelings for one another. However, both ladies are able to put their tendencies to the side, since Maggie is terminal and has very precious time left. Maggie must move in with Mary, and although it isn't easy at first, they both realize this time together is a precious gift. The ability to spend every moment together until the end, is something to treasure.

With respect to caring for and dealing with a terminally ill person, Mulligan again brings the reader right into the story. Mulligan either did his homework or unfortunately went through this experience himself. Hopefully it's the former. All of the decisions and paperwork can be mind numbing, and as quickly as events happen, is as quickly as it is over. Advance directives people!

In the background of all of this, is the story of the lost letter. What happened? What does it contain? Will Maggie get it in time, before she passes? Sorry, but I'm not going to give you the answers, but I'm sure you can figure it out. Mulligan also describes Jimmy's experiences in the army. It is not pretty folks and you should thank anyone who goes to war and survives.

My only issue with the book was the writing was a bit off. The beginning felt choppy and clipped, if that makes any sense. Occasionally, it also felt as though continuity was missing. I may not be explaining it very well, but obviously it wasn't bad enough to deter me from finishing the story.

Overall, this was a very emotional read for me. I have dealt with a terminally family member, so some sections were tougher than others. I would recommend having a tissue or two on hand.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Romance Challenge

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Lucy said...

Hey Jenny!!
This sounds heart-wrenching but beautiful (too bad about the choppy writing though..)
Great review- thanks!

Blodeuedd said...

Hi Jennym
Hm, I mean it sounds good, but at he same time I do not knwo if it is the book for me

Irene said...

You've sold me, I really enjoy a emotional read, don't know why, but I guess I won't be reading it on the bus.

Darlene said...

This sounds like such a moving book. I think it's one I'd like to read even though it sounds like some parts are hard to read.

Staci said...

I don't mind reading a book where I need a fact, those are the ones that I enjoy the most. Feeling emotional is a good thing!

Carrie K. said...

I'm glad to hear this is a good read - I have it waiting on the shelf. :)

Marg said...

Pity about the choppy writing. This sounds like something I would really enjoy reading.

bermudaonion said...

Books that evoke emotion are always good in my book.

The Bookworm said...

It does sound like an emotional read, great review.

Wanda said...

The cover caught my attention and drew me to this review. I thought it was a bit creepy/startling but after reading your thoughts on the book see where it actually fits the book quite well. Sounds like a good story despite some choppy sections.

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