Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Fifth Letter

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
HarperCollins: 1/24/17
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062413567

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty is a recommended story set in Australia of four long-time friends and secrets.

Joni Camilleri, Deb Camden, Trina Chan, and Eden Chester have all been friends since they attended high school together in 1993. Joni initially brought the four together because they are all Scorpios with surnames ending in C. Now it is 2016, they are all married and everyone but Joni is a mother. Joni has planned their annual girls' getaway at a rented beach house. Feeling that they are losing their connection to each other, Joni comes up with the idea that they will each write a letter sharing a secret with the group. These letters are read, one at a time, over the following days. As each letter is read, the friends discuss the secret as if none of them wrote it. But there is a fifth letter that was written. The writer tried to burn it in the fireplace, but it survived. Apparently one of the four friends is seething with anger and hates another one.

The Fifth Letter is told in chapters that alternate between the present day get-together and flashbacks to their high school days. Interspersed are scenes of Joni meeting with a priest to give a long confession where she is essentially telling the story of the friends and their secrets, and little excerpts from the fifth letter.

It is an enjoyable, well written book, as far as a light read for escapism goes, but it's not that mysterious, psychologically complex, surprising, or dark. While the characters are different, they are not especially well-developed or complicated. I guess I didn't find the secrets all that shocking or any surprising plot twists either. This is a novel you kick back to read for fun, not heart-pounding suspense or shocking plot reveals. It succeeds on that level.

While the desire to read the four secrets and find out who wrote the fifth makes for a irresistible hook, The Fifth Letter was a bit of a letdown. Of course you don't know what other people, even close friends, are thinking or doing. Of course they have secrets or private parts of their lives. And, given the way life really is, the most serious secrets aren't even in the letters. Additionally, maybe it's just me, but I found it very difficult to take seriously four women friends who still refer to themselves as "girls." They are supposed to be in their late thirties, 38, so they should be beyond that now even if they became friends when they were girls.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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