Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++++
“We have to live with the wounds we’ve inflicted on one another.”
And isn’t that life? Isn’t a part of loving someone, unfortunately, cutting into them even when it is unintentional, even when it is devastating? Even more importantly, how do we survive and continue to love that person after the damage has been done, after the cuts have struck so deep that the scab is now thicker than the original skin? That is the crux of Devney Perry’s newest heart-wrenching gem of a book, Letters to Molly.
My experience to date with the “second chance” romance trope has entailed two people who loved each other once, endured a trauma, and found themselves swept away from each other for some reason. Years later, they find each other and reconcile, ending in their “happily-ever-after” no matter the time lost. In all of these situations, the couple is not married until after the reconciliation. This has been my reading experience, and I don’t profess to be the most experienced romance reader since my entree into the genre didn’t begin until a year and a half ago.
Enter Devney Perry’s Letters to Molly. This book is a second book to her The Birthday List (TBL). We meet Molly, as the main character’s best friend (and former college roommate) and now ex-sister-in-law in that book. We find out quickly that Molly and Poppy’s brother, Finn, have a seemingly idyllic marriage. Until it isn’t. Unfortunately, in the midst of Poppy’s tragedy in that book, the two separate, and, one night, Molly sleeps with someone else, ending in Finn divorcing her.
Letters to Molly begins six years later. Molly and Finn have created an arrangement for their children and each other that allows them a fairly flawless relationship as they raise their children together, yet independent of each other. One night, after a night of family time, Molly and Finn’s natural chemistry (and some alcohol) leads them to sleep with each other, complicating the fortress of boundaries that Molly has created in the six years of their divorce. One day, a letter arrives at her house, a letter written by Finn, a letter written from a time when they were dating. Confused, Molly asks Finn about the letter, who responds in confusion that he never sent her the letter. In fact, these letters were written for her, but never given to her because they are letters he used to process his thoughts and emotions. He never had any intention of sending them to her.
As their physical relationship continues, so do the letters, highlighting the brokenness of their prior relationship. Through this process, Molly and Finn are forced to confront the truths of their marriage. The questions created by these letters: (1) who is sending them and (2) can these two forgive each other and find a future together?
“Until I forgave myself for being human and flawed and impulsive, the past would haunt me. It would haunt us.”
That is really at the heart of this story: forgiveness. And it’s the genius of this book. As I stated previously, I haven’t read a book about a divorced couple finding reconciliation. I think in our society today it seems odd for a couple to move past the traumas of their past to find a future together. However, Perry’s book shows us beautifully that two people, dealing with the ways in which they inflict trauma on each other, can own their part in it and reconcile. To be honest, it is glorious to consider this nowadays with the number of people who are divorced being equal to the number of people who are married. Acknowledging that maturity and perspective could go a long way to heal wounds made in a union seems a profound consideration.
When I was reading The Birthday List, my heart broke for Finn and Molly, most notably Molly. I read myself in her in many ways. She is that every day strong woman, the type of woman who takes care of everyone to the exclusion of her self. Most importantly, these type of women tend to have soft underbellies, so being shut out from your partner’s emotions or thoughts cuts deeply. And we see this happen with Molly. Instead of communicating this, she carries it onto her shoulders, weighing down her soul and heart. As we see in the book, this weight breaks. For so long, Finn doesn’t “see” Molly. He doesn’t note the weight that bears down upon her through life situations, and this is the problem. It’s the angst of this story that Devney writes so tragically. I could feel this weight and connect with the heaviness it bears on Molly’s life. It also brought me to tears because I could feel its impact in the careful crafting of Molly’s character.
It would be easy to vilify Finn. I was intensely angry with him in TBL. Honestly, I thought his emotional response to Molly was immature. But the beauty of Finn’s character in Letters to Molly is his eventual epiphany. We find out that he is dedicated, focused, thoughtful, hardworking, and introspective. I’m not sure that most men would take the time to consider his part in the divorce. In TBL, he blames Molly wholly for the destruction of their marriage. However, in this book, his introspection brings about their reconciliation. Perry helps us see through his character that forgiveness can only come from accepting responsibility for one’s own actions without blame to the other person. His character is essential to this story’s message, and Perry has created this man who the reader cannot help but fall in love with, especially by its end.
Beyond its characters, there is so much to love about this book:
- Its ending, the epilogue, is delightful. I mean, heart-stoppingly perfect. I made a note in my Kindle version of this book to that effect. It made me sigh heavily, sad that the story was over.
- The structure of this story. Each moment relates to one of Finn’s letters, and it points to a moment in the past while existing in the present. Each situation points us to one of the ways in which love was built or destroyed, and the raw emotional nature of each letter builds the depth of the story. Perry creates a depth of emotion throughout the story that you can’t help but feel what Finn and Molly feel. It’s true constructed empathy at its best.
- The connection to the past characters of TBL. I love re-connecting with Poppy, Cole, their parents, and the kids. It’s like wrapping yourself in a ratty, comfortable blanket on a cold day.
- The hope of this story. Finn’s response to his epiphany is one of the best parts of this story. The way in which he goes about wooing Molly is everything a woman dreams of in a man. It made my heart beat harder and hope for more love and care.
“Finn was claiming me. We both knew that after this, we’d never go back. We were all in, taking this journey together. Taking another chance in one another.”
I wish that I could adequately offer the true feelings I have for Letters to Molly. I knew that I would love this book simply because I am a huge fan of Devney Perry’s. What I didn’t expect was loving a divorced couple and rooting for them to find their happily-ever-after. Trust me when I say that this review doesn’t do justice to this book. If you struggle with reading a divorced couple, please don’t worry. Devney Perry’s Letters to Molly is an ode to forgiveness and finding love even when the past has scarred your heart. We all could use a reminder of that lesson from time to time.
In love and romance