More often than not, death is viewed as an ending rather than a beginning—but that is not the case in Mary Adkins’ delightful debut novel, When You Read This, in which a young woman’s death proves to be the catalyst for a compassionate and heartwarming love story.
When Iris Massey is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in her early 30s, she turns to blogging as a way to help come to terms with her illness and immortalize a sliver of her soul through memories and drawings. Before she dies, she prints out a copy and leaves it behind with instructions for her boss, Smith, to get the manuscript published if he can. Smith wants to honor Iris’ memory and her last wishes, but when he reaches out to her sister, Jade, about how to proceed, she tells him in no uncertain terms to drop it. Despite the hostile tone of Jade’s initial messages, the gaping Iris-shaped hole in both Smith’s and Jade’s lives ultimately forms a bridge between them. Through emails, texts, therapy transcripts, blog posts, order confirmations and more, readers witness as shared grief paves the way for discussions of other touchstones of loss and disappointment, sparking a deeper connection that neither character was looking for but can’t be denied.
An epistolary novel for the 21st century, When You Read This sparkles with a perfect blend of humor, pathos and romance. At times painfully sad, the novel balances Jade and Smith’s anguish so that it is palpable but never overwrought, and moments of levity and whimsy keep the tale from becoming maudlin or cloyingly sentimental. Adkins has managed to paint an authentic and nuanced portrait of grief and the various ways people attempt to cope and continue on with life when the worst has happened.
Inventive and irresistible, When You Read This is a tender and uplifting story about love, loss and the resilience of the human heart that will have you laughing and crying in equal turns.