cover image The Letter

The Letter

Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster, $17.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83472-6

Set in Salt Lake City during the Depression, this overwritten, tear-jerking tale of personal redemption returns to the characters Evans introduced in his bestseller The Christmas Box. Twenty years have passed since the death of David and MaryAnne Parkin's three-year-old daughter, Andrea. David has maintained an unvarying stoicism about Andrea's death, shutting out MaryAnne, who finally rebels against her emotional limbo and leaves him. Feeling thrice abandoned by the women in his life (first by his mother, Rose, when he was six, then by his daughter, now by his wife), David reads an unsigned letter in Rose's hand that MaryAnne had discovered at the foot of Andrea's grave. Immediately, he decides that finding his mother will lead him to the answers he craves. Through his quest, David confronts poverty, racism, personal demons and the temptation of new love. By striving to understand his feelings for his mother, David is able to reconcile his grief for his daughter and renew his love for MaryAnne. Evans again offers a surplus of melodrama and flowery prose, further undermined by one-dimensional characters and contrived situations. Readers who crave a huge dose of sentimentality, however, will be touched by this exhortation to moral strength in the face of tragedy. Simultaneous audio; author tour. (Oct.)