Title: Letters to my Yesterday
Author: Karyn Sepulveda
Published: September 1st 2018
Publisher: Ventura Press
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
At the age of ninety-two, Marie runs a much-loved café from the house her single mother Rose built in the 1920s. A warm and welcoming refuge for many, Marie is determined not to let a downward spiral in her health get in the way of her busy life helping others.
Dee, the highly respected principal of a local public school, is facing the biggest challenge of her career – launching an inter-faith curriculum to an unwelcoming school community. But will her own background as a Lebanese Muslim immigrant work against her?
Isla, the young marketing guru tasked with helping Dee launch the campaign, has suffered the greatest loss of all, and is haunted by a devastating secret from her past.
Letters to My Yesterday is a moving and tender portrayal of female strength, hardship and friendship, and that beautiful moment when someone comes into your life at just the right moment, and changes it forever.
Karyn Sepulveda, the author of Letters to my Yesterday, is an enterprising woman. Not only has she penned a poignant first novel, she is also the brainchild of a podcast that shares the same title as her novel. I was tempted to look into Karyn’s podcast and when time permits, I will be exploring these fascinating stories of extraordinary women. Letters to my Yesterday is a contemplative novel that draws the reader very easily into its embracing hold. It is a heart rendering book that reminds us of the importance of love, support, friendship and connection in our day-to-day lives as enduring women.
Opening in Australia in the 1920s, Letters to my Yesterday begins with Rose, a formidable woman, a widow and a mother, who decides to invest in property, rather than fall into poverty. This wise choice leads Rose to establish her own general store. As the depression makes its unwelcome presence known, Rose thrives, her store remains above ground and so do her finances. She is able to give her children the best possible future she can. Rose’s legacy has been passed onto her daughter Marie, aged 92, who still runs her mother’s beloved store, which is now a cafe. Marie has taken steps to ensure this cafe is an open meeting place for all to seek some solace from their complicated lives. Marie is also sure she will not let her declining health get in the way of her inherent need to help others. Connected to this family story of strength and determination is two women, Dee and Isla. Both are faced with their own separate challenges, but together they realise they can do anything with the friendship and unconditional support of each other.
Inspired by an oral story shared over a simple family barbecue to the author of Letters to my Yesterday, Karyn Sepulveda, this book was conceived via an unearthing of the author’s great grandmother’s life journey. There is a sense of meaning, passion and poignancy behind Sepulveda’s novel. I also sensed Sepulveda’s inherent need to pay homage to not only her great grandmother, but to all the incredible women out there, completing incredible things, inspired by those before and around them. Letters to my Yesterday truly is a contemplative, transformative and resonating read.
I loved the structure of this novel, it is almost like a family and friendship quilt. There are many narrative squares that fill this novel, but Sepulveda is the master of her craft, she sews all these pieces together so that they form one creative quilt. Personally, I appreciated the device of the letters which were interspersed throughout the novel, it was a great touch, adding another layer to this rich tale. The letters are focussed on reflection and advice you would give to your younger self and I found I was leaping ahead to get to the next letter. The letters were a seducing tool in Letters to my Yesterday, ensuring that I remained loyal to the story at hand.
Sepulveda’s characterisation is her strength. The characters that fill the pages of Letters to my Yesterday are well rendered. I felt like I got to know most of this character set intimately. Rose was a standout character for me personally; I loved her journey, the nostalgia that came with her arc and Rose’s personality traits. Likewise, I found a connection to Dee, due to her profession. However, I feel all of these characters are crafted in way that they will hold wide-spread appeal, to an expansive audience type.
There are messages abound in Letters to my Yesterday, from acceptance, belonging, love, support, friendship, sense of community and of course, life itself. Letters to my Yesterday is a holistic book, I was able to come away with a renewed focus on the importance of valuing the friendships and support systems I am fortunate to be blessed with in my life. I also came to the realisation that I do need to take a step back at times and appreciate that although it often seems quite ordinary, my life is vital, purposeful and extraordinary. It’s always a blessing when a book has the ability to switch your mode of thinking.
Letters to my Yesterday is a luminescent novel that follows a great concept and it is ardently presented by Karyn Sepulveda, who I feel is a natural storyteller. This novel has moments of tenderness and light, which is balanced carefully with more dramatic moments. Letters to my Yesterday was an undemanding read, which I am sure will appeal to many open readers. I am keen to see what Karyn Sepulveda will conjure up next and I’m sure I’ll be one of the first in line to read her next piece of writing.
Letters to my Yesterday by Karyn Sepulveda was published on 1st September 2018 by Ventura Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Letters to my Yesterday, Karyn Sepulveda, visit here
*I wish to thank Ventura Press for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Letters to my Yesterday, is book #115 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge