Friday, February 11, 2022

Beth Miller - The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright

For the past twenty-nine years, Kay Bright’s days have had a familiar rhythm: she works in her husband’s stationery shop, cooks for her family, tries to remember to practice yoga, and every other month she writes to her best friend, Ursula, and Ursula replies. Kay could set her calendar by their letters: her heart lifts when the blue airmail envelope, addressed in Ursula’s slanting handwriting, falls gently onto the mat.
Ursula is the only one who knows Kay’s deepest secret, something that happened decades ago that could tear Kay’s life apart today. Ursula has always been the person Kay relies on. Knowing she will hear from Ursula is like being sure the sun will rise tomorrow.
And now Ursula has stopped writing. Three missing letters doesn’t sound like a lot, but Kay gets out her shoebox of notes from her best friend, in case there’s something she overlooked. Ursula seems fine, but the further back she goes, the more Kay begins to question every choice she has made in her life. Which might be why, at ten o’clock one morning, Kay walks out of her yellow front door with a just a rucksack, leaving her wedding ring on the table...

Comment: I got interested in this book last year. I can't remember why now but something about it caught my attention and onto the pile it went, however, I must say it wasn't as amazing as I expected.

In this book we meet Kay Bright, a woman married for twenty-nine years but who wakes up one day and decides it's enough. She informs her husband Richard she wants to end things and simply leaves to do some of the things she always wanted but that Richard never seemed to want to do with her. At the same time, Kay wonders if her choices in the past were the bad ones and she remembers her first love, how it ended and everything that influenced her to choose what she did. Although she knows she is shocking her family, she still leaves, especially since she is worried about her best friend and pen pal Bear, who moved to Australia when they were teenagers. Bear hasn't replied in the past three months and Kay fears something is wrong. As she decides what to do next, will life finally offer Kay some excitement?

I'm not certain what exactly I would have wanted from this book but I didn't expect it to be as "meh" as it turned out to be. This is the first book I try by this author and I liked the writing just fine, it's easy and fluid and probably better than what I ended up thinking, but the plot and characters didn't won me over, so I might be biased on that as well.

When the story begins, the protagonist Kay decides to leave hr husband. While this is perfectly acceptable, as the plot unfolds, I have to say her reasons feel more like a temporary moment of unease than a pondered decision, even though we are given plenty pf pages where Kay wants to convince us of precisely that. Kay seems to be the embodiment of that person who saw life passing her by and now that her children are adults and left home, she can't help but thing on what could have been. We are aware she no longer feels as in love with her husband and wants to do something new.

While I don't necessarily agree with Kay's method, I can't judge someone who would want to leave an unhappy marriage. I believe my issue here is how Kay analyzes and presents her explanations to others, because instead of making me feel sympathetic, I'm more on the side of those readers who see her as a little selfish. Not because of her decision but how she goes about it. I can suppose doing something quickly is like ripping off a band aid, easier and before one loses momentum, but at the same time, she had other people's feelings to consider.

I think, by not offering the POV of Richard, we are meant to want to like Kay more but even though he can be seen as a little boring, I still felt sorry for him, or someone like him, caught unaware just because his personality isn't what someone else would want. We do have the POV of Stella, Kay and Richard's daughter and she has her own personal issues to go through. By having both mother and daughter as protagonists, aware of their thoughts, we can see they are in similar points in life, despite the age difference: both reached a situation where it feels nothing can go right and this affects their lives.

Stella's problems seem to be easier to deal with, in the sense she has things happening to her, whereas Kay is causing things. I suppose it's a lot easier to process something when part of it might not be in our control. I liked these two good enough but Stella seemed to lack some maturity, even though the author tried to makes us think otherwise by including the segment of grown up people dealing with parent's separation (when mostly we assume only children would be affected). As for Kay, she does go on two journeys, she finds out about her friend Bear's life and why she stopped writing and after some less than good situations, seems to process her actions differently.

I think the big issue is that Kay never felt like a person I could empathize with by the way the author developed her. I can understand her reasons yes, but on the page there wasn't much I read which convinced me this was her best course of action. When the story ends every character had some sort of epiphany or makes a choice, finds a new path or whatever one might want to think about it, but I wasn't particularly amazed by the book. It's readable, has interesting elements, but the final product wasn't as engaging or captivating as I imagined.
Grade: 6/10

No comments:

Post a Comment