Love Letters to the Dead

by Ava Dellaira

This concept of this book: a story told through a series of letters that Laurel, whose sister May may or may not have committed suicide after being told a terrible thing that happened to Laurel, is pretty awesome.

You get not only hauntingly lyrical prose, a history lesson on famous figures like Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, and Janis Joplin, but also a sensitive story about how a group of misfit outcasts in high school are surviving despite the wounds of abuse and grief life works on them.

Laurel is pretty much frozen by her sister’s death. She really can’t do anything or try to be anything except for her memories of May– which aren’t always close to reality. The group of misfits she ends up hanging out with also are frustrating at times, people who are either locked into patterns of self-destructive behavior because they love someone, or because they are afraid.

The juxtaposition of famous peoples’ destructive behavior with Laurel and her friends’ is illuminating and wonderful at first. It’s like the first few spoonfuls of a rich, bitter chocolate mousse.

Then about two thirds through the book it got a bit wearisome. That’s alot of self-destruction to endure. And Laurel definitely gets worse before she gets better. So it’s almost too much by the end.

But I like books about broken people, and this is definitely a cast of people learning to live with the damage of abuse– physical, sexual and substance.