Synopses & Reviews
Is there any mystery greater than those we love the most?
In this remarkable collaboration, New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger combine their unique talents to create a powerfully moving novel of an estranged husband and wife through a series of searching, intimate letters. By way of a correspondence so achingly real youll forget its fiction, they trace the history of a love affair and of a family before, and after, the moment that changed the course of two peoples journey forever.
Sam and Hadley West are both trying in their own ways to survive after the unthinkable loss of their only son in Alaska. For Sam, a sports journalist, acceptance means an arduous trek by dogsled across the bleak and beautiful arctic wilderness to find the place where Paul died. For Hadley, it means renting a benignly haunted, salt-soaked cottage off the Maine coast where she begins to paint again.
Now, at opposite ends of the country, waiting for their divorce to be finalized, they begin to exchange letters by post, missives filled with longing and truths theyve never before voiced, as they recall their marriageits magic moments and its challengesand begin to rediscover the reasons they fell in love in the first place.
As Sam risks his life to reach the remote crash site, Hadley begins an equally hazardous inner journey to a rendezvous with the mad grief of a mothers heart. At the place where all else is lost, they will meet again….
About the Author
is the author, most recently, of Last Kiss
and Light of the Moon,
among many other New York Times
bestsellers. She lives in New York City and on the Connecticut shore.
Joseph Monninger has published nine novels and three nonfiction books, including the memoir Home Waters, and has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. He lives and teaches in New Hampshire, where his family runs a sled-dog team.
Reading Group Guide
A unique novel that unites the storytelling powers of acclaimed authors Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger, The Letters
offers a heartfelt, intimate, and often unflinchingly candid correspondence between two parents in the aftermath of the death of their son, Paul. Compelled by a need he cannot explain, Sam has embarked on a dangerous Alaskan journey to visit the site of Paul’s plane crash. Sam’s wife, Hadley, struggles with the emptiness she feels, while trying to envision a new chapter for herself—developing her skills as a painter and making a new home, away from the one where Paul was raised. Coming to terms with losing Paul, they also discover secrets he had kept, and the burdens they had not been able to help their son carry. As they confront the obstacles that have haunted them and truths about themselves they've never before faced, Sam and Hadley tenderly question whether their relationship, and ultimately, their marriage, will be able to survive—and even grow.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger’s The Letters. We hope they will enrich your experience of this deeply moving novel.
1. What is the effect of reading a novel that unfolds as a series of letters? What do the characters reveal about themselves, and what do they hide, while writing letters? How are Sam’s and Hadley’s perceptions of the past different?
2. Discuss the two approaches Sam and Hadley take toward their son’s death. What sustains each of them? What are their greatest obstacles to healing?
3. What is the true purpose of Sam’s journey? What does he hope to gain by revisiting this terrain?
4. What makes the novel’s landscapes appropriate for Hadley and Sam’s emotional journeys?
5. Hadley rediscovers her need for solitude and a space for creating art. What other aspects of their own personalities were Sam and Hadley able to find in the wake of their son’s death?
6. How did your impressions of Paul change throughout the novel? What characteristics of his mother and father did he possess?
7. How do the book’s illustrations enhance your reading of The Letters? What moods and details are captured in these images?
8. In his letter from November 16, Sam describes Martha’s belief that everyone is part snake, needing to shed their skin in order to grow. How does this apply to Sam and Hadley? At what points in your life have you needed to “shed your skin”?
9. What does interest in other partners (Martha and Daniel) indicate about Sam and Hadley’s longings and needs? What keeps them from finding these comforting experiences in each other?
10. How did you react to the revelations about Julie? What did Paul’s parents teach him about love and relationships?
11. What is the role of faith in Hadley’s life? What does it take for her to believe in miracles, even the ones that do not come true on her terms? How does Sam’s approach to spirituality evolve throughout The Letters?
12. Would you have trusted Eileen Kilkenny? Why would Hadley, but not Sam? Would you have been able to forgive Mrs. Kilkenny, or at least to rationalize what she did?
13. What does Hadley discover about herself, and about Paul, at the monastery? What new life emerges there, from loss and heartbreak?
14. What themes of healing appear in this novel and in Luanne Rice’s previous works? What is special about her approach to hope in the face of tragedy?