Letters to My Yesterday…
About the Book:
At the age of eighty-eight, Marie runs a much-loved café from the house her single mother Rose built in the 1920s. A warm and welcoming refuge for many, Marie is determined not to let a downward spiral in her health get in the way of her busy life helping others.
Dee, the highly respected principal of a local public school, is facing the biggest challenge of her career – launching an inter-faith curriculum to an unwelcoming school community. But will her own background as a Lebanese Muslim immigrant work against her?
Isla, the young marketing guru tasked with helping Dee launch the campaign, has suffered the greatest loss of all, and is haunted by a devastating secret from her past.
Letters to My Yesterday is a moving and tender portrayal of female strength, hardship and friendship, and that beautiful moment when someone comes into your life at just the right moment, and changes it forever.
I always enjoy a novel that is inspired by an author’s own family history. It adds a layer of magic that makes the moments within the pages all the more poignant.
‘Rose Robson was my great-grandmother and did indeed build a house and shop at 33 Maher Street, Hurstville. Although I’ve taken creative licence, there are many precious memories belonging to my family intertwined throughout this story.’ (Author note)
The novel opens with Rose, a widow with two young children running a general store on her own in Sydney during the 1930s. Rose is a woman who has carved her own path and I admired her greatly. I would have loved a bit more of Rose throughout the entire novel to be honest, because she becomes secondary to Marie and is mostly present in Marie’s memories rather than in sections of her own. Later in the novel, we begin to get these letters to my yesterday sprinkled throughout, and these are from Rose, but even still, I just felt like I hadn’t gotten enough of her all round. She was so inspirational and resourceful, a story within the story, I felt. I really loved this scene with Rose and her children at the beginning of the novel, it really highlights the special person she was:
‘“If these walls could talk,” Rose whispered and she held them closer still.
“What would they say Mum?” Lucas asked, his eyes wide, ready to hear the secret of the whispers his mum always talked about.
“They’d say this is an extraordinary house. It’s ordinary, yet amazing in so many ways. So it’s extra-ordinary.”
“But why? What happened here?” Lucas was very disappointed the ghosts he’d imagined whispering in the walls of his house didn’t have anything more interesting to say.
It’s not so much what’s happened here, it’s more than that. It’s who’s been here, what’s been spoken about, what’s been hoped for, what’s been fulfilled. But even more than that, my darlings, it’s about what’s yet to happen here.”
“Well, what’s that then?” Lucas tried one more time, crossing his fingers and hoping it was something spooky.
“Anything. Anything could happen here. And that is what is so extraordinary about our house. Anything is possible at thirty-three Maher Street.”’
And this really sets the scene for the rest of the novel too, the idea that anything is possible at thirty-three Maher Street.
In the present day, Marie is living in the house and the general store is now a café. Marie is very much like her mother in the sense that she has created this welcoming and memorable space and regularly touches the lives of others through her kindness. She’s quite old though, and not in good health. While she’s determined to not let this stop her from continuing to do what she has always done, inevitably, there comes a point when she no longer can sustain the myth that she is well and fine. Maire befriends two women, Dee, who is a regular customer, and Isla, who is new to the café but used to visit the general store when she was a child. Isla is working with Dee on the marketing campaign for Dee’s new inclusive program, and through Marie, these two women connect on another level and form a firm friendship. It’s a lovely scenario that unfolds, Marie matchmaking friendships until her last days. At times the narrative was light and even glossy, not offering as much depth as I might have liked, but then at others, moments dug very deep and there would be a breathtaking disclosure that would just stay with you and have you contemplating life and love in equal measure. Memories from the past were offered for each of the women at key moments and I think this worked really well in terms of character development.
This novel is very much about connectivity between people, the relationships we form and the way we move through our daily life inhabiting them. It’s about viewing the ordinary as extraordinary, and this is summed up so well by Rose in one of her letters to yesterday:
‘When my children were young I would explain the word ‘extraordinary’ to them from time to time, because that is what I felt our life was. Ordinary from the outside, but when examined closer and you see all those extras, it becomes extraordinary. Now I realise every life is the same; full of extras.’
Isn’t this a wonderful notion? Ordinary full of extras. I just love this. Letters to My Yesterday is a quiet novel, one to curl up with and get lost in. It didn’t take me long to read, but it was lovely and warm hearted, with some great scenes. My favourite of all was ‘Smithy’ the pilot dropping into the general store. This is one of those great moments of serendipity that show how far a kindness to a stranger can sometimes extend.
‘Hope that no matter the circumstances, life will continue and anything is possible.’
I highly recommend Letters to My Yesterday. It has all the feels and the letters to yesterday written by Rose that were included are a poignant reminder about the important things in life. Tapping into contemporary themes on tolerance, exploring issues of guilt and grief, along with all of the wonderful human connectivity throughout, this is a novel that will appeal to a wide audience.
Thanks is extended to Ventura Press via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Letters to My Yesterday for review.
About the Author:
Karyn Sepulveda comes from a background in theatre and teaching. She enjoys working on many creative projects, including a podcast Letters To Our Yesterday, in which she interviews extraordinary women about their life journey. Karyn lives in Sydney with her husband and two children. If she had to pick the perfect day it would include: the beach, great music, family and a good book. Karyn loves connecting to her readers and can be contacted at www.karynsepulveda.com.
Letters to My Yesterday
Published by Ventura Press
Released on 1st September 2018