Letters In Cardboard Boxes tells the story of an eccentric grandmother and her granddaughter alongside a series of fantastical letters they once exchanged. Their letters once traversed the East River to help Parker escape the loneliness of a childhood without her globe-trekking parents and communicate during her turbulent teenage years. Now, nearly a decade later, Parker begins to rediscover the evidence of this letter writing tradition, as well as the family’s untold stories and, unexpectedly, letters from her grandmother’s own youth that paint a very different portrait of the woman who raised her.
Letters carries us through the universally-shared experience of loss and the process of coping with life’s unexpected twists and turns. Through unusual and bold characters, the story moves through some of its heavier themes with honesty and humor.
Paperback, First, 260 pages
Published September 9th 2011
Letters In Cardboard Boxes has just won the First Horizon Award for superior work by a debut writer. Please check it out at the link below :)
Letters in Cardboard Boxes is a truly wonderful and moving story, that I think will be relate-able to many readers. It is beautifully written and reads brilliantly. It took me a little while to get fully engaged and interested in the storyline, but after that the pages flew in quickly and I fully enjoyed the story.
Parker has been raised by her eccentric grandmother, Dotty. The pair are very close and do quite allot together. Parker discovers Dotty is very ill, she is loosing her memory at an alarming rate. So Parker packs up her things and moves in with her Grandmother.
Parker finds a cardboard box full of letters that her Grandmother sent to her when she was growing up. Dotty always sent Parker letters and at first Parker loved their letter writing ritual, but as she grew up she thought it was silly and stopped sending letters back.
Dotty deteriorates further and further and soon she may not even remember who Parker even is. But Parker will always have the wonderful letters to remember her Grandmother by. Parker finds more letters and photographs in her Grandmothers belongings and she discovers some things about Dotty that she never knew before. She starts to regret not asking questions and getting to know Dotty when she had the chance.
Tanya is a sixteen year old girl that Dotty mentored. The pair were very close and Tanya relied on Dotty's presence and advice. But Dotty wants Parker to take over Tanya's mentoring sessions, Parker's not too sure. Tanya plays a key role in the book, Parker ends up relying on her. Tanya is described as an old soul in the book and I think that fits her perfectly.
I really don't want to ramble the whole storyline away, so I will let you discover the book for yourself. The ending was fantastic, I was so pleased for Parker, that she puts herself first. She went through such a transformation throughout the book and it was a delight to read. Abby Slovin handled the heavy topics in the story superbly, it never became too low, it had humour to keep it balanced.
I am one of those people who picks up a book and reads until the end of a chapter, but Letters is divided into 5 parts and that annoyed me a little bit. I understand now that the book was divided into 5 parts to coincide with psychology's 5 stages of grief, but I'm still not sure how I feel about no chapters.
All in all, a must read book from début author Abby Slovin, add it to your Goodreads shelf today, I highly recommend it.
My favourite characters:
Tanya: She is intelligent, different, fun and seems older than her years. I really enjoyed reading about her character.
Dotty: I absolutely loved Dotty's bold, wacky, fun personality, she is a great person that I would love to have as my grandmother. She is a real joy to read about and put a big smile on my face. It is such a shame that such a lively soul lost her memories.
*Special thanks to Abby Slovin for the review copy*
About The Author
First off a big hello and welcome to Abby Slovin, who has dropped by Fiction Fascination today for an interview. :)
Thanks for inviting me :)
Tell us a little bit about Letters In Cardboard Boxes?
Letters tells the story of an eccentric grandmother and her granddaughter alongside a series of fantastical letters they once exchanged. This relationship sits at the core of the novel and we witness this bond begin to deteriorate as dementia progresses. Its told with honesty, warmth, and humor, and focuses on the universal experience of loss.
Where did the inspiration come from to sit down and start writing it?
The inspiration for this story stems from a moment of discovery in my own life. I was sorting through some of my grandmother's belongings after she had passed away and found a handful of letters between her and my grandfather during their courtship. I was hit with a lot of emotion: sadness, for not having her around to discuss it, guilt for not asking about her youth when she was around, and joy that she had such love in her life. I decided to write a story with this theme at its foundation, and it evolved from there.
Who is your favourite character in the book? Why?
I love Jerry, his gentle humor and warmth, and also his quiet sadness. I think he's a good, complete character.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
Since I work full-time, my process is more influenced by time constraints. Most of my big ideas, big scenes, or dialogue have resulted from sporadic thoughts I’ve had throughout the day. Walking to work, for example, something might occur to me and I write myself a text so I don’t forget. Sometimes, I’m able to run right to my computer and flesh it out. Other times, the little notes to myself sit for a few weeks until I can get to them. I don’t necessarily have a schedule to write, but I think that’s what makes my prose more energetic, more raw. Because I’m usually moving while I’m “writing.” I usually jump around in the story also. One day I’ll write parts of the beginning, then jump to the end, then back to the middle, and so on. I just go with what section is speaking to me at that moment. If you can call chaos a process, then I guess that’s exactly what my process is.
Is writing something you always wanted to do?
I've always loved to write, but I would say it was definitely more of a hobby before I got the inspiration to write Letters. Even then, I was writing the story for fun for some time before I realized it could be something more.
If you could change one thing about Letters In Cardboard Boxes, would you? What would it be?
That's a tough question because I think its important to reach a point in the writing process where I'm content with things as they are, and allow the story to live in the real world with readers and their own interpretations of it. That's not to say I think the story is perfect, but more so that I've reached a point where I'm content with it, as is.
Are you working on any writing at the minute? That you can tell us about?
Right now, I'm moving forward with two new projects. The first, being released monthly on the Dunce Academy blog, is a humorous story about a recent college graduate searching for work (http://www.abbyslovin.com/jack-and-the-brick-wall/about-jack/ ). The other will be my next novel, called 10:15 on a Tuesday, tells the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between an upper-middle class widower and a psychic (http://www.abbyslovin.com/other-work/what-should-i-write-next/1015-on-a-tuesday/ ).
Tell us about some of your favourite authors?
I love Kurt Vonnegut, and am in awe of how he consistently made such profound observations in such a simple way. And I love the quirky relationships and multi-dimentional characters depicted in the work of Charles Baxter, Woody Allen, and Ruth Ozeki. I love the poetry of Emily Dickinson.
If you can narrow it down (I know it's hard) could you tell us you top 3 all time favourite reads?
What a difficult exercise. Hmmm...my favorite reads of all time are probably One Hundred Years of Solitude, White Oleander, and All Over Creation.
Who is you favourite fictional character (not your own)? Why?
I love Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. She's bold, curious, and challenges what society expects of her.
What do you enjoy getting up to in your spare time?
I like to spend time outdoors, sitting outside with a beer or a coffee and talking to a friend, or strolling through the park. Anything low key or slow paced that allows me to stop and watch the world for awhile.
Where can people find you? And your works?
I love hearing from readers, so if anyone wants to find me, they can email me with questions, feedback, or to sign up for my mailing list at email@example.com. If anyone would like to read more of my work, or keep updated on new projects, they can visit my website: www.abbyslovin.com
Thanks so much for the interview, Abby :)
Abby has been kind enough to offer up 2 e-copies of Letters in Cardboard Boxes. So to be in with a chance to win one, fill out the Rafflecopter below. Open internationally, winner will be contacted via e-mail. Good Luck :) *Sorry about spelling Boxes wrong in the Rafflecopter*
a Rafflecopter giveaway