Ann McMan is one of my favorite authors. When I read her books, it’s like I’m stepping into a world I know well. This is partly because many of her novels are set in an area close to where I grew up and lived for many years. The characters she creates to fill these worlds are so realistic, I often feel I know them from real life. I’ve always considered Ms. McMan a great author, but after reading her newest novel, Dead Letters from Paradise, I now know she is a brilliant writer.
This book tells us about Esther Jane (EJ) Cloud, a forty-something spinster who lives in Old Salem, North Carolina. The year is 1960, a time of much social turmoil and the beginning of great changes in our world. EJ works at the Dead Letter Office in Old Salem, so it is only natural for the head gardener at the Moravian Herb Gardens to give EJ a stack of letters mailed to the garden but addressed to someone that has never worked there. The mystery of these letters and where they come from will change EJ’s life forever.
There is so much I could say about this book, it’s hard to know where to begin. There is the eloquence of the language and dialogue, the realistic characters and their stories, the gentle way the author incorporates the fictional tale into the real life drama of this time period. All of this and more makes this an exceptional historical fiction novel. I truly felt I was stepping back in time as I read this tale. Yes, I lived through this time though I was a child a few years younger than Harrie, the ten year old character in this book. I remember many of the events that are mentioned in this novel. It was a volatile time in our history, and the author does an extraordinary job placing the plot in this time period.
This is one book that I’m sure I will want to read over and over. With each reading I know I’ll find something new in the many hidden layers the author has placed in this wonderful story. Dead Letters From Paradise has my absolute highest recommendation. You do not want to miss this one.
I received an ARC from Bywater Books for an honest review.