Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
In this modern age of emails and texting, it is rare for individuals to write letters to one another, but it is through this long-lost medium that author Taylor Jenkins Reid chooses to tell this story of two spouses betrayed by the ones they love.
It is December 1976 when Carrie Allsop writes her first letter to David Mayer, the husband of the woman with whom Carrie’s husband, Kevin, is having an affair. Not yet having the courage to confront Kevin about his indiscretion, she at least wants “the other woman’s” husband to know of his own wife’s betrayal.
Ironically, she had found out about the affair when she found letters to her husband from his mistress.
It is clear her intent is not to hurt this man whom she’s never met, but rather to unburden herself and simply tell someone else, and because she truly believes he ought to know.
And so starts an almost year-long correspondence between these two victims of their loved ones’ affair that eventually leads to in-person meetings and a friendship borne of commiseration and a need to feel attractive and desirable to someone once again.
Through their letters we learn about each of their marriages, how they each fell in love with their spouse, and how things started to unravel. They discover things about each other and themselves that have gone unnoticed for too long in their own lives, and forge a unique and much-needed bond.
And this is all done through what they write to one another in letters; the reader is not actually there when they meet for the first time, nor are we with either of them when they are with their respective spouses. We learn about their spouses through what they choose to reveal to each other about them, and through another series of letters between David’s wife and Carrie’s husband.
You would think that this would leave something lacking in the story, that after reading a few pages of this, you’d get bored or find it tedious. But trust me, you won’t. I found myself devouring these letters. They are short and to the point, yet they fully deliver, giving the reader revealing glimpses into the characters’ minds, desires, and lives.
The author also leaves you feeling as if you’re in on a secret that you shouldn’t know, because, well, you’re reading letters that were not meant for your eyes, and you are witnessing their honest revelations to one another about their innermost feelings, fears, and insecurities.
As a reader, you end up feeling invested in these characters and their stories, and yes, if you’re like me, you will take sides, and keep reading voraciously to the very last page to see how things eventually work out.