Letters From Home

by Jo Barrett




Letters from home lift John Caldwell’s spirits during his tour of duty in Iraq.
Phoebe Honeycutt, otherwise known as Aunt Bee to all the kids in the neighbourhood, fills an empty place in his life through her letters and cookie care packages, after the death of his grandmother.
But what John doesn’t realize is that Phoebe isn’t the doddering old lady he believes her to be. And when they come face to face at last, her delicious cookies aren’t the only things he wants to sample.

On the whole I enjoyed this story, though some questions did raise their heads.

The first section of the book was fine. Bee, Tommy and his grandmother, Tommy’s friends, John and his army buddies, the letters between Bee and John, the stories they shared, and the hilarious twist known only by Bee and the reader – all thoroughly enjoyable, utterly engaging, and I was hooked. Be prepared to crave biscuits and cookies. I suggest you have some on-hand! Bee is a home-baker so the story is filled with treats.

Bee’s story is a heartbreaker. She’s been broken in life and in love, but unlike John, she doesn’t wallow in her misery. As many people do, she turns her attention outwards – to life, to people, to society. It may be a different kind of life to the one she wanted, but she is an important person to her family, friends, & community.

My biggest problem with the book is one of the foundations of the story; the reason why Bee says she will remain single. For me that reason (as stated/written by the author), combined with her age at the time, the after-effects, and much more, render this reason somewhat absurd and redundant.

However…

I liked Bee & John up to a point – that point being when John behaved like a selfish idiot and segued into being a d*ck by running hot & cold. His repetitive ‘whining’ to himself about his dead dreams, that life now gone, can’t love anyone – it just got out of hand. Outside that, he comes across as a good guy, still dealing with the lemons life has thrown at him. What he needs to do is get a grip, and make lemonade!

Which is what Bee has done in her own unique way. She is a sweet, kind, and all round loving person who supports the people and children in her small hometown. It would be nice to say that she throws herself into the life of her community. She does up to a point, but I feel it would be more correct to say that she throws herself into the role she has chosen, based around her slightly distorted view of herself and therefore what she has to look forward to in life. Regardless, she is a lovely character.

Equally, there were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into Bee. This was particularly around her Aunt Sophie. That woman’s machinations and manipulative behaviours may have come from a partisan and distorted place of love but her actions were cruel and dangerous. The potential for any of it to backfire was strong, and the consequences for Bee would have been devastating. I appreciate that this is a novel, and the author can write and take the story anywhere she wants to, however that needs to be tempered with some level of reality – what Sophie did was completely out of order.

One of the highlights and joys of this book is Tommy. He is nothing short of adorable and I was ecstatic he got his HEA! BUT stop Bee from calling him ‘sweetie’. Eradicate that word from her vocabulary – the over-use was irritating and annoying.

THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a delightful story, flaws included. I read it in one sitting, and if there’s a sequel (suggested by the ending), I’ll probably read that too.

Great way to pass away a lazy day.

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