The Sum­mer of Lost Letters

  • Review
By – September 27, 2021

Set on Nan­tuck­et Island, this sun-soaked, breeze-filled, wave-splashed love sto­ry sat­is­fies the sens­es as it tells the sto­ry of sev­en­teen-year-old Abi­gail Schoen­berg as she research­es her family’s his­to­ry, makes new friends, works in a fab­u­lous book­store, and falls seri­ous­ly in love. The book is part his­to­ry, part mys­tery, part romance, part com­ing-of-age sto­ry, and all delight.

Abi­gail has unex­pect­ed­ly come into pos­ses­sion of a stack of old love let­ters, writ­ten to and saved by her late grand­moth­er many years ear­li­er. The let­ters are mys­te­ri­ous­ly intrigu­ing. Abi­gail reads of a long-ago love affair, a miss­ing neck­lace, and a world of priv­i­lege and wealth her grand­moth­er had nev­er men­tioned. She doesn’t know much about her grandmother’s per­son­al his­to­ry, only that she came to the Unit­ed States alone, as a young child, flee­ing the Holo­caust. Intrigued by the let­ters, Abi­gail deter­mines to learn more about the grand­moth­er she thought she knew so well and decides to spend the sum­mer in Nan­tuck­et, the place the let­ters orig­i­nat­ed. There she meets Noah Bar­banel, son of a wealthy fam­i­ly and the grand­son of her grandmother’s long-lost love. Abigail’s sum­mer is filled with joy, heart­break, self-knowl­edge, and growth. Hop­ing to find answers to her elu­sive fam­i­ly his­to­ry, Abi­gail does tra­di­tion­al research but also con­fronts some of the play­ers in her grand­moth­er’s long-ago, dra­mat­ic past, uncov­er­ing infor­ma­tion about her great-grand­par­ents and their lives in pre-war Ger­many that affects Abi­gail and her fam­i­ly in the present day.

Unlike many recent YA nov­els with Jew­ish themes, this book does not treat Judaism as a source of ten­sion or con­flict, instead show­ing it as a series of com­fort­ing, warm con­nec­tions that help bring the pro­tag­o­nists togeth­er as they fig­ure out where their lives are going and how to achieve their goals.

A com­bi­na­tion of roman­tic sum­mer read­ing com­bined with thought-pro­vok­ing ideas, this book com­bines the best of both worlds in an engag­ing sto­ry which is sure to be rel­ished page by page and thor­ough­ly enjoyed.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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