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THE HATBOX LETTERS

by Beth Powning

In her rambling Victorian house, surrounded by heirloom gardens and the gentle sounds of a river, fifty-two-year-old Kate Harding faces her second winter since the untimely death of her husband. In her living room are several hatboxes filled with letters recently brought by her sister from the attic of their grandparents' eighteenth-century Connecticut house. Kate remembers the sense of permanence and refuge that she felt in her grandparents' apple-scented world, as well as, more recently, with her husband. As she begins to read the hatbox letters, she discovers that what to a child seemed a serene and blissful marriage was in fact founded on a tragic event. As Kate's eyes clear to the truth of the past, a new tragedy unfolds, and her own house, filled with the shared detritus of marriage and motherhood, becomes the refuge where Kate can connect the strands of her unraveled life.

 

Maxine's Review

This is a novel about life, loss and longing.  The content is sad and sometimes unbearable but persevere to the end. 

Our story begins with Kate Harding adapting to her new role as widow.  Kate is grieving but seems stuck and unable to move to the next stage.  Then a wonderful thing happened, she was entrusted with several hatboxes saved from her grandparents home, a home Kate loved and thought of so fondly.  Will the timely delivery of these letters help Kate see the light or will they unravel a history that cocoon around Kate and keep her in the dark? 

Kate opens the first hatbox and her journey begins.  Immediately she is taken in by the letters sent to her grandfather Giles and is drawn to this timeline.   She hunts for all the receipts and photographs near this date.  The picture Kate had painted of her grandparents is slowly smearing and she finds herself determined to patch together the family history while also restoring her heart. 

I enjoyed the parts of the story where Kate travels back in time and finds a clue and fills in the blanks with her memories and imagination.  Her present day life was over written for me.  While Powning’s prose was well done, it was overdone. 

This book is about grieving, not a comfortable subject to read or write about.  I did feel that at the end of this story we were given a well-deserved happy ending.

Maxine's Rating 77/100  Initially felt this book moved along too slowly, but now feel this was intentional. Difficult content but wonderful prose.

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