What IS an epistolary novel, anyway? It’s a novel told through letters. Newcomer Amy Lynn Green’s novel will blow you away.
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Epistolary Novel Greats
The first epistolary novel I remember reading was Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster. I’ve read it, and re-read it over the decades (along with Daddy Long-Legs, another novel told in letters). Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, made me laugh, cry, and long to receive a letter from John Ames. Epistolary novels allow readers to dive into the intimate thoughts of one, or many characters. They show us so much, yet allow us to draw our own conclusions because the letter writer binds us to his or her own point of view. We can own up to holding thoughts we might never acknowledge in public when we read someone else’s inner thoughts. At the same time, we see the rifts and flaws in our own thinking and beliefs.
By Amy Lynn Green, Bethany House Publishers, November 2020, 416 pages.
The story starts with treason. Johanna Berglund, an opinionated language genius happily enjoys her life at the University of Minnesota studying dead languages. After all, dead languages seem much less confusing than living, breathing people. But when the army decides to build a prisoner-of-war camp for Germans in her tiny Minnesota town, Johanna’s life changes. Whether she wants it to or not.
Everyone pressures her to return home and take up the job of translator and censor for the new POW camp, but Johanna has no desire to return home again. Ever. No matter what anyone says. She has her heart set on studying in Oxford, England when she finishes her undergraduate studies, and taking a semester out to meet everyone’s expectations doesn’t seem right, or fair.
And she especially doesn’t want to return to a place where she feels her reception will equal that of the POW’s. How does a patriotic, yet reluctant recruit end up accused of treason in the middle of Minnesota—far from the horrors of World War II?
There’s only one way to find out—reading stacks of letters.
Why I Loved This Book
Not since Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead have I read an epistolary novel that has moved me to tears. In today’s world of emails, text messages, and instant messaging, we forget the quiet satisfaction of letters mixed on paper and baked in the postal system. Letters that reveal our true selves—not only to the recipient but to the sender as well.
The collection of correspondence from and to Johanna reveals not only her heart but the heart of her community. Like Atticus Finch, Johanna gets saddled with doing the job no one wants. As she struggles to find commonality with the POWs, the community reveals its prejudice, bigotry, and hate in ways that stun and surprise. Johanna also learns that not everyone has blinders on—they just need someone like her to help them understand their own prejudices.Don't miss Amy Lynn Green's beautiful WWII era novel. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cheer, and you'll come away changed. #netgalley #bethanyhouse #ThingsWeDidn'tSay Click To Tweet