Letters for Scarlet is a modern-day novel about two friends in their late twenties who haven’t spoken to each other since high school.
High school friends Corie and Scarlet have a big falling out senior year, when Cori falls in love with Scarlet’s sort-of boyfriend, Tuck. Corie and Tuck end up getting married, but she hasn’t talked to Scarlet since high school. Cori is haunted by the loss of her friend, and her role in it, but does nothing about it until she takes a job as a teacher at her former high school, which brings back a lot of troubling memories.
I found this an engaging read, particularly the insights into Cori and Tuck’s marriage, but with a couple of caveats. First, most of the book deals with the subject of having babies – the main character is desperately trying to have one, the other friend finds herself pregnant. I’m not saying babies aren’t worth reading about, only that it was hard for me to identify with either character. That’s just me, and I know other women will feel differently.
The second caveat is that Gardner uses a story device that a lot of authors use, where a critical part of the story is hidden from the reader and revealed only at the end. As you’re reading the book, there are references to a traumatic event, so we know that it was more than just boy trouble that caused the rupture of this friendship. But we don’t learn the whole story until the end. As a reader I’m not a big fan of the big reveal, because in the case of this book, it kept me from understanding the characters throughout the story. I prefer a story that unfolds more naturally.
This was a difficult book for me to review because, although I accepted a copy from the author, it’s not really my type of book. Why? I hesitate to say because it’s “women’s fiction” or “chick lit” because I don’t care for classifying women’s fiction differently from men. Still, it’s a book about women and relationships, and not the sort of book I usually pick up.
That said, this story of revisiting high school trauma resonated with me, even though I’m far away from my high school and my home town, and even though I’m 27 years out of high school, not ten. For some reason those memories we form when we’re 17 or 18 just never go away. They are as vivid for me today as anything I can remember of the last few years. And those first loves and lost friendships feel as sad today as they did then. You think when you’re older it will all be replaced by new and exciting memories, but it doesn’t seem to work like that.
So even if I couldn’t relate to the baby story-line, I could relate to that.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The book will be released April 4, 2016 by publisher Velvet Morning Press.