Book Club: Nineteen Letters

Author: Jodi Perry
Hachette Australia
Courtesy of the Publisher

Nineteen Letters is the debut novel of Jodi Perry, but the tenth novel by the author who has written bestsellers as J.L. Perry. This is my introduction to the author under either name. It has been said that the book has echoes of Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook in particular. Well, I can’t comment on that because I haven’t read it, or watched the movie so that was not one of the reasons that I picked it up.

Stories of high school sweethearts and childhood sweethearts make for such beautiful love stories, Perry takes this one a step further. Braxton Spencer meets Jemma Robinson when she moves in next door to him, when he is 7 and she is 6. They become friends on the very first day and that relationship grows and stays with them through the years.

For much of the book Braxton is referred to by his full name and I found that to be quite a mouthful because he only ever would have been Brax to me. I think in the years leading up to the book he may have been a Brax but life has been thrown into chaos by the time we are brought into the picture and everything is a little more distanced.

Jodi Perry has written an absolutely gorgeous friends to lovers story that we don’t follow from start to finish, instead we learn about it all from Braxton’s letters.

In a heartbreaking twist of fate Jemma is in a serious car accident on the way to her first day back at work after her honeymoon, nineteen days after marrying the love of her life. She is critical but after a heartbreaking wait she awakes, with total amnesia.

Nineteen is a significant number for Braxton and Jemma, it has been present in all the biggest moments of their lives. The way it is woven into even the most heartbreaking moments is extremely well done.

Jemma’s amnesia is something they can’t fix, there isn’t a rehab for the mind. There is an intensive physical rehab program that Jemma undertakes but only time will answer the questions of whether her memories will return.

Nineteen Letters is told from the dual perspectives of Braxton and Jemma so we get to see how this situation is affecting each of them. Braxton is devastated that the love of his life has absolutely no memory of him, all he wants is to wrap her in his arms and take her home but he is a complete stranger to her.

Jemma struggles with these people who tell her they were once so close and she can see the pain in them at ever step but she just can’t remember. There is just nothing there and she’s not sure how to move forward. The whole amnesia storyline is totally horrific to comprehend and I guess not something I have ever given significant thought too, like what would you remember in terms of just living and that was something sensitively explored by Perry. Jemma doesn’t know what she liked or didn’t, no places are familiar and to present her with a menu was terrifiying.

Those closest to her stand by and help through Jemma’s recovery in the hospital and rehab facility; and though she doesn’t remember them she is thankful they are so good to her. On release from rehab she decides to return to her mother’s house, devastating Braxton who couldn’t comprehend the idea of returning home without her.

Unwilling and unable to give up on this once in a lifetime love Braxton writes letters to Jemma detailing events from their shared past. Through his letters he offers an insight into their lives through the years, along with a memory bracelet he builds by sending charms relevant to the letters.

Braxton’s letters encompass their shared history, and that of their families, so we get an intimate look at the relationships that surround them. We learn the stories of both sets of parents and also Jemma’s grandparents as they unfold in Braxton’s letters; each of them signed “What we had is far too beautiful to be forgotten”.

I managed to get through the book without tissues but it is certainly one to tug on the heartstrings. The beauty of their love story, through nineteen years of friendship into lovers; the heartbreak of the accident and a love cut short; the lengths Brax will go to for the love of his life and the loneliness of Jemma’s amnesia.

Perry takes us through Jemma’s recovery and how she needs to learn to live again, she has to come to terms with the fact that she may never regain her past but that just means she needs to make the most of her future.

She may not remember the people surrounding her and the relationships she had with them but over time she forges new relationships, they may never share the same memories but they will create a host of new ones.

Nineteen Letters is a beautiful love story of never giving up. It is first and foremost the story of Brax and Jemma but it’s also the story of everyone around them. I’m not going to tell you what happens, you really need to read it for yourself. I will tell you that you can’t help but hope Braxton gets his happily ever after.

The characters are well developed and I was invested in the secondary characters, and Jemma’s relationships with them, as much as I was with Brax and Jemma. I think the amnesia was the most intriguing element, knowing the memories are gone but the feelings of familiarity and the always wondering why you are drawn to certain things remains.

Nineteen Letters is book #34 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Jodi Perry loves to hear from her readers and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We also have Jodi Perry on call from August 28-September 1 in our Ask An Author segment so if you have a question for her head over and ask in our Ask An Author post.

Nineteen Letters is published by Hachette Australia and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia, Amazon AU, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and where all good books are sold.


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