No Tree Books, $1.99
Contemporary Fiction, 2008
Letters from David is a beautiful and heartwarming story of family, love, and finding your own self. Unfortunately, it is also one that comes off as too artificial for its own good.
In her forties, Claire Mead doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she no longer has her husband. Her children are abroad. Claire has been a mother and a wife for so long, so she has to take baby steps once again to live her own life. But this isn’t just her story, it’s the story of the people closely related to her as well. Throughout it all, letters from her son David, who is stationed at Afghanistan, to Claire and other people close to David will catalyze all kinds of epiphanies and decisions that will ensure a happy ending full of warm fuzzy feelings.
This is a lovely story. Claire’s tumultuous emotions following her husband’s death ring true and are often heartrending to read. Unfortunately, Ms Paludan also weaves in plenty of didactic lectures about finding yourself into various characters’ conversations that the story sometimes comes off too much like a talk show. It is possible that David is an intelligent young man with a flair for expressing himself in writing, but his letters in this story often come off too much like… well, transcripts from a talk show.
The problem with Letters from David is that the author tends to go overboard with her messages, forcing them down the throats of readers most blatantly in the form of didactic and heavy-handed speeches and letters in this story. The emotions of the characters are the most realistic aspects of the story, but alas, the author’s heavy-handed attempts to turn this story into some kind of Hallmark tale with very important messages almost bury everything good and real about her story under a mountain of mawkish sentiments. This is one story that is almost paradoxical in how it is simultaneously real and ersatz.