Jason F. Wright
Penguin Group (USA)
Trade Paperback/288 pages
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". . . memorable and unique and a shadow of what it could have been . . ."
The Wednesday Letters: Family romance with a Christian message.|
Jack Cooper has terminal cancer, but it is his wife Laurel who dies first and unexpectedly from a heart attack. Jack trips and falls as he tries to get help, but he is too weak. He crawls back into bed with Laurel and, holding her hand, follows her into death.
Anna Belle, A&P to friends, and her dog find Laurel and Jack the next morning. She calls everyone in Jack’s address book to spread the news that the owners of Domus Jefferson, the B&B Jack and Laurel owned and operated, have passed away together in the night. Samantha, the couple’s youngest daughter, and Matthew, their eldest son, begin funeral arrangements after contacting their brother Malcolm. Malcolm has been living in Brazil for the past two years after fleeing assault charges and a jail sentence.
Malcolm knows he will be arrested the moment he arrives back home, but he wants to be with his family and say goodbye to his parents. He also wants to see Rain, the woman he loves. Rain is engaged to District Attorney Nathan Crescimanno, a man who will stop at nothing to see Malcolm behind bars.
More than jail awaits Malcolm when he returns home. He and his siblings sort through boxes of financial statements and paperwork to put their parents’ affairs in order. They find boxes filled with over two thousand letters written by Jack to Laurel every Wednesday of their married life. Among the mundane details of married life and the poignant memories of abiding love, the Cooper children find a darker side to their parents’ fairy tale love that changes their lives.
Romance novels are a dime a dozen, but sometimes a romance comes along that turns the genre on its head and offers a more substantial and realistic picture of the trials and tribulations of married life and derailed love. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright is just such a romance.
Proceeding from a romantic ending similar to Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook, Wright begins with a sweet and unrepentantly emotional death of aged sweethearts that quickly turns into a family drama with a darker and more complex side. Wright doesn’t spend a great deal of time on the characters of Malcolm’s brother and sister. He sketches them rather than using them as a strong counter balance to the more fully realized Jack and Laurel Cooper, through their Wednesday letters, and Malcolm the wayward son. Even background characters like Rain and A&P seem more interesting and solid.
Despite the uneven characterization, the letters take center stage in The Wednesday Letters beneath a spotlight undimmed even by the obvious Christian message. However, it is not the heavy-handed and obvious tug on the emotions that bring real tears to the eyes, but one small moment near the end that crystallizes the theme of Wright’s romance and renders The Wednesday Letters unforgettable.
Had Wright taken more time with his sprawling cast of characters or focused more on the central characters, The Wednesday Letters would be a breakout romance that redefined the genre. As it is, The Wednesday Letters is memorable and unique and a shadow of what it could have been. It is still a story that tugs blatantly at the emotions and is worthy of at least a few hankies.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell