Read Remark Book Review - Dead Letters by Caite Dolan Leach

Book Review: Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

One-sentence summary of Dead Letters:

Ava returns to the family vineyard when her twin sister, Zelda is found dead.

…Or is she?

Oh, what a dysfunctional family we meet in the Antipovas of Dead Letters.

Nadine is the alcoholic mother who suffers from dementia. The father, Marlon, claims to love his girls, but leaves them all one day after an explosive fight with Nadine, one of many.

Their twin daughters, Ava and Zelda, are caught in the middle of the dysfunctional family drama. Just as their names imply (A to Z), they are opposites. Ava is the responsible one, while Zelda is the wild child. But Ava and Zelda share a tight connection.

As an adult, Ava herself flees from the family vineyard, living in France. Zelda stays and cares for the family business and their ailing mother.

And then one day, Ava is called back home. A barn burned down with Zelda inside, killing her.

But Ava knows Zelda better than anyone. Zelda’s resourceful and restless. And she left a series of notes for Ava, the dead letters, taking her through a scavenger hunt of clues and making her more and more convinced that Zelda’s alive.

The Antipovas seem to have walked straight out of a Tennessee Williams novel.

The sultry summer nights, the illicit love affairs, alcoholism, barbs disguised as compliments; it’s all there. I could practically see Nadine stumbling through the grapevines, sloshing glass of wine in hand as the sun sets behind her, yelling at her daughter, “I love you babygirl..but I wish you had never been born! You ruined me! Ruined!!”

Dead Letters was a slow burn for me. It took a while for me to get into the story, and then all of a sudden, I was riveted. None of the characters are very likable. Their flaws are too deep; their toxicity to each other too palpable.

It’s reminiscent to the phenomenon I experienced when reading The Nest. Everyone in the family is abhorrent. But then, they grow on me. By the end of the novel…

Well, I won’t tell you. Read it and experience the upsurge of emotion yourself.

You’ll see just how full of life Zelda’s Dead Letters are.