A Letter for My Love, by Anna Mansell
Publication: Bookouture; November 29, 2018
About the book:
‘My love, sometimes I think that if I’d found a way to talk, we’d be together now…’
Helen had thought she was happy. But then her husband Alex announces he’s leaving, and her life falls apart. All she ever wanted was for their love to last a lifetime. But now he’s gone and she doesn’t even know what she’s done wrong.
Then, as her courage is faltering, Helen happens upon a bundle of unsent love letters, tied with a red ribbon, and signed only ‘the love you wished I could be’. And – even as the letters start to help Helen make sense of her own life – it becomes clear that someone has been keeping some heartbreaking secrets.
But who do the letters belong to? Can the sender ever be reunited with the one they love or is it too late? And when Helen finds out the truth about Alex, can she find it in her heart to forgive him, or will he never be the love she wished for?
What a fabulous novel!!! I have read and enjoyed Anna Mansell before, but oh my goodness, A Letter for My Love just tugged at my heartstrings! This novel is about a woman named Helen who is a bus driver, married to her husband Alex, and they have a late-teen/young adult son, Tom. Since losing his job, Alex has withdrawn from Helen more and more, eventually resulting in his leaving. Meanwhile, Helen has found a notebook on the bus full of love letters to an unnamed person and signed, “from the love you wished I could be,” a younger man is expressing his affections towards her, and her elderly neighbor Geoff is dealing with his wife’s worsening Alzheimer’s.
This was such a beautiful novel that I’m not sure where to begin. Helen is a fantastic character, pushing forty years old, driving extra shifts as a bus driver, and her husband Alex is sitting in his recliner constantly messing around with his phone. Much of the novel focuses on the decline of their relationship as Alex communicates less and less, eventually leading to his leaving her. Helen struggles, of course, torn between the shock of him leaving, how to fix things, and then finally, the realization that things had reached the point that time apart was probably a good idea. Through the mysterious love letters that she finds on the bus, she starts to see different perspectives of her and Alex’s situation and wonders what, if anything, she could have done differently. Thrown into the already emotional and chaotic time in her life is the younger man, Martin, who serves as a symbol of possibility and what else could there be out there, while also reminding Helen of her love and desire to be with Alex.
Geoff is in his nineties and is dealing with his wife Connie’s failing health, as well as, battling with social services, caretakers, and his daughter about putting Connie into a facility full-time. There are a lot of inner thoughts and flashbacks with Geoff reflecting on his and Connie’s marriage, their love for one another, and how her love for him was the foundation of the life he had led. Geoff’s portions of this novel are absolutely heart-wrenching and Kleenex is required several times.
James is a sweet, but mysterious soul that Helen allows to ride the bus for free to stay out of the cold. In the second half of the novel, James starts opening up to Helen more, encouraging her to do the same, leading to several revelations about James and the life he has led. This underdog of the novel ends up being not only an inspiration but a huge catalyst of acceptance and then change for Helen.
Anna Mansell’s imagery, dialogue, and emotion in this novel is outstanding. A Letter for My Love is happy, funny, sad, regretful, and hopeful all wrapped up into one incredible package. I think that the most important theme in the novel is that, to a great extent, we can’t hold ourselves responsible for the happiness of others. As spouses, family, or friends, we can do our bests to love and support those that are important to us, but ultimately, we can only claim responsibility for ourselves. Although we are stubborn, we can’t fix everyone and every situation, but we can treasure each day, make sure the important people in our lives know that we love them, and just hope for the best!
Bravo the incredibly talented and honest Anna Mansell for this beautiful novel that is and will remain fresh in my mind and heart for quite some time.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!