Dead Letters by Caite Donlan-Leach
Read: December 27, 2016 – January 10, 2017
Format: Paperback ARC / NetGalley
My Book Rating: 4 Stars
Publisher: Random house
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Genre: Literary Mystery
ABOUT THE BOOK
In this sharp and clever debut novel of suspense, a young woman—presumed dead—leaves a series of clues for her twin sister, which leads her on a scavenger-hunt-like quest to solve the mystery of her disappearance.
Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. But two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.
Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda is allegedly burned alive when she passes out in the barn with a cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister. Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues to her disappearance. Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama. Along the way, Zelda forces Ava to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke her heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving? To teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?
Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut suspense takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family.
Caution: There may be mild spoilers, but I promise, NOTHING will ruin the ending.
Literary fiction isn’t my GO TO genre. In fact, I tend to avoid it. For the most part I don’t like that style of writing. Going into Dead Letters I knew it was a more literary book than I gravitate toward and honestly, up until about 15-20% I seriously considered quitting. By the time I reached THE END (sobbing like a baby) I was so glad I didn’t quit this one.
As the blurb indicates, Ava’s from a family of alcoholics. They’re all pretty terrible people, making all kinds of terrible life choices. It was hard to relate to them because I’m the opposite, I just don’t see the point in alcohol so I usually abstain. It actually bothered me a lot more up until the point when Ava says out loud that she knows she has a problem. Once the cards were on the table, I could respect her more.
One of the problems I have with literary fiction is that they tend to linger on seemingly random tangents. That was very much the case with this book, as present day Ava reminisced about something that happened years ago, usually involving Zelda. And much of the time they seemed unimportant to the story, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of a flashback that didn’t pertain to the clues/ending.
The clues laid out by Zelda were very clever. I found myself wondering how she was doing it. What was going on. Just when I thought I figured it out, I got a slap in the face. My theory was 100% incorrect, and though it would have been cool, this ending was so much butter. (If anyone wants to know my theory, feel free to private message me! I don’t want to spoil the journey for other readers by posting it here!)
Seriously, I can’t express my feelings for this book without spoiling it!
I’ll sum it up this way – for 95% of the book I could have cared less what happened, I just wanted to FINISH. Then the ending happened. And suddenly I was completely and totally invested in the story. Days later and I’m still thinking about it. The book shot from like, a 2.5-3 star book to a 3.75/4 star book.
So should you read the book?
If you’re into literary books – YES.
If you’re not so much into literary but you like a book with a mind lowing ending that leaves you thinking – YES.
I received an advanced release copy of this book from Goodreads First to Read and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Random House and the Author.
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I’m an idiot and accidentally deleted all of my quotes from my phone! Yikes!
“The ending was so much butter” huh? You know, I think I’m going to start using that phrase to describe things that are awesome now. It’ll go great with my “Life isn’t all flowers and sausages.”
haha Yes. The ending was so much better. I expect to “hear” you saying that all the time now to describe things. 🙂
(And it’s entirely true for this book.)
I love those plot twists and unpredictable outcomes.
They absolutely took me by surprise. There isn’t a lot of romance in this, but I think you should give it a try!