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The Hatbox Letters
by Beth Powning

Category: Fiction / General
0 pages; ISBN: 0312340222

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


The Hatbox Letters
Beth Powning
St. Martin's, Mar 2005, $24.95

On Canada’s Atlantic shore, over a year has passed since her fifty something husband Tom suddenly died of a heart attack, Kate remains mourning and feeling all alone. Her adult children are long gone and having no Tom to age gracefully with. This makes for long days and longer nights. Only piano lessons during the day provide any relief from the solitude.

Her sister arrives with hatboxes filled with aging yellowing letters that she brought down from the attic of their grandparents’ Shepton, Connecticut home. At first Kate ignores the boxes but finally begins to read the correspondence and is stunned. Apparently Grandfather Giles courted her grandmother's sister, who died from diphtheria in 1915. Kate learns more about her ancestors and begins seeing an old family friend Gregory Stiller, who just returned to the province following his son recently committing suicide. As Gregory pushes Kate to go out more, she misses Tom even more while on the other hand the letters make her feel nostalgic and remind her that her family will think lovingly of her and Tom.

THE HATBOX LETTERS is a fabulous character study that showcases a delightful protagonist still grieving the loss of her partner though one year has passed since he died. Kate is a fantastic individual, who makes the story line work as she slowly changes from constant loneliness to middle aged acceptance of the inevitability of life. Over time (and the course of the plot) she begins feeling better as her memories of her grandparents enhanced by the correspondence emphasize that nostalgia is good for cleansing the soul knowing that the next few generations will fondly remember you.

Harriet Klausner


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