By Jamie Dale
GCPLD Youth Services Coordinator
As a child, I would often leave fake love letters hidden in the walls of houses while we were moving out.
I wanted desperately to find one of these hidden messages myself; to have the joy and intrigue of solving a mystery and learning of a secret, tragic love affair.
I wanted to give that joy to someone else (although my fake love letters would not lead to any secret love affair, nor could they be “solved,” as they were fake). I blame this on the obsession I developed in the third grade with Nancy Drew.
The mere idea that someone could happen upon my letter and get that thrill of a romantic mystery to solve, a thrill I so fiercely longed for, was reason enough for me to continue my dalliance with the world of faux mysteries.
Understandably, when I came across Hannah Reynolds’ “The Summer of Lost Letters”, I was intrigued. Reynolds weaves a charming tale of mystery, discovery and intertwining transgenerational love affairs.
Throw in some environmental concerns, social awareness and Jewish history, and this book checks every box.
Our protagonist, Abby Schoenberg is a spirited 17-year-old with a love of history and a complicated relationship with her deceased grandmother, O’Ma. After receiving a box of her possessions, she comes across a set of love letters from the mysterious E. Abby and is immediately drawn into the hidden past of her O’Ma. She decides to go on a journey to solve the mystery and use it as fodder for her college admissions essays.
The letters lead her to a wealthy family and their estate in Nantucket, where she has a run-in with E’s grandson that leaves her more determined to figure out what secrets the family is harboring and how they relate to O’Ma.
The story unfolds across the month of June in the sweltering heat of Nantucket. Abby and Noah grow closer as they unravel the mystery of O’Ma and E, and family secrets lead to trouble for everyone.
With a somewhat predictable, yet satisfying ending, the mystery is unraveled and Abby and Noah realize they may not know as much as they originally thought about love, family obligation and the choices their grandparents made.
The entire story is a juxtaposition of the past and present. A true picture of how the struggle of immigrant grandparents leads to the opportunity of third-generation grandchildren.
Reynolds weaves in tales of beach bonfires, yacht trips and mansion parties as easily as stories of Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany to come to America in search a better future while leaving behind family and all they once knew.
She highlights the American Kindertransport and the 1,000 children adopted into American families during that time, and she manages to do it in a way that feels respectful, honest and real.
While this is a book targeted toward teens, it is a story that is relevant and compelling and can be enjoyed by all ages. Take the time to immerse yourselves in this story of love, family and history.
You won’t be disappointed.
“Recommended Reading” is a collaboration between The Sopris Sun and the Garfield County Public Libraries District (GCPLD), highlighting important literature available at local libraries.