LETTERS FOR EMILY
In this tearjerker of a debut novel, author Wright delves into a family's struggle with a dying parent's mental illness, a marriage breakup and a mysterious legacy left for a seven-year-old granddaughter. Widower Harry Whitney is old and dying. Alzheimer's disease is taking its toll, and he wants only two things—to die with dignity and to be remembered as the good man he once was, not as the drooling, cranky old coot he is becoming. His children are estranged, their marriages on the rocks, and his only true friend is his granddaughter, Emily. After Harry dies, his daughter-in-law, Laura, finds three identical homemade books filled with Harry's poems and stories. As she and Emily discover, each poem and story contains a secret, coded password linked to computer files. The files each hold a special letter to Emily—confessions, revelations, advice, even a hint of hidden gold. After Harry's son and daughter read the letters, too, they begin to realize that Harry was a pretty amazing father after all. Wright's word picture of old Harry slowly dying and knowing it is powerful and gripping, as are his vivid portrayals of nursing homes, adult children making tough decisions for elderly parents and the insensitivity of the medicare system. His melodramatic characterizations of husbands and wives involved in divorce proceedings are less successful, but Harry's letters to Emily are eloquent enough to make this a worthwhile read overall. 12-city author tour. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Jan.)
Forecast:Originally self-published, this novel was a regional bestseller in Utah. It lacks a seasonal hook, and so may not catch on as easily as its close cousin, The Christmas Box, but it is otherwise equipped with all the key trappings of grassroots success—including a blurb from Mary Higgins Clark and poems by Wright's grandfather, the inspiration for the book.