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Letters sends message about family and love
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‘The Wednesday Letters'

By: Jason F. Wright
Price: $13 (paperback)
Rating: Four out of five bookmarks

All I knew was for this Off the Shelves review, I wanted to read something good. Something inspiring or at least insightful.

I know that what's "inspiring" or "insightful" is very different for everyone, but my mission was to find a book that was both unique enough and universal enough that it defined part of the human experience. I found what I thought would be a good choice, oddly enough, in a complimentary literary sampler at the bookstore. All I had to read was two pages of Jason F. Wright's bestseller "The Wednesday Letters" and I knew I was in for a good, heartfelt, honest read.

An estranged family is reunited when Jack and Laurel Cooper, a devoted married couple of 40 years, suddenly pass away one night together, in a final embrace. As the local community starts arriving for final goodbyes, Jack and Laurel's three children are finally together again after several years of separation. Matthew, Samantha and Malcolm share little in common except for their love of their parents and the difficulties they each face with their personal relationships.

When they discover thousands of letters that their father wrote their mother - every Wednesday from their wedding day to their last night together - they find both uniting threads that could bring them closer and devastating secrets that could potentially tear them apart.

In recent years with books and movies, I always believe I can see an obvious plot point coming from a mile away. "The Wednesday Letters," I am happy to say, managed to keep me guessing all the way through. When I felt like the book was going to take an obvious turn, Wright would present a surprise that was cleverly crafted.

The best thing is, I could tell Wright set up each new revelation leading the reader a certain way, only to give a completely different outcome. That was probably my favorite part about the story.

The characters were compelling as well. The story focuses mainly on Malcolm, the youngest son who escaped to Brazil after skipping out on bail and losing the love of his life. He struggles not only with the loss of his beloved parents, but information he learns in the letters begins to make him questions who he is and what his life is for.

Samantha, a potential star of the Broadway stage who makes a living as a police officer, is also a good character, trying to balance her emotions (which, for a police officer, she seems very easily affected by) and her strength as the mediator of the family. The reader doesn't seem to get as much into the eldest son Matthew's head as the other siblings, but he too is a well portrayed character - he remained three-dimensional when he could have very easily been the typecast role of a know-it-all, more successful older brother.

"The Wednesday Letters" is ultimately about the bonds of family and love, and how faith and understanding can overcome the worst of difficulties. It is a touching story without being overly sentimental; it is intense without being melodramatic. And it feels like a personal experience that everyone can relate to: unique and universal.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review runs every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? E-mail her to tell her about it.

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