Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: The Wedding Letters by Jason Wright (Whitney Finalist)

Title: The Wedding Letters
Author: Jason F. Wright
Enjoyment Rating: 6/10
Referral: Whitney Finalist
Source: Electronic copy
Books I've read this year: 40

This is the second year in a row that Jason Wright has had a book selected as a Whitney Finalist in the General Category. Last year's finalist, The Cross Gardener, was one of those books I wanted to chuck against a wall. If I hadn't been reading on my brand-new iPad, I very well might have chucked it. It was sappy, it was overly detailed, it had angels-- in short, it was everything I disdain as a reader. Yes, I recognize that I'm revealing my prejudices here.

And those prejudices continued into this year. I was NOT excited when I saw that another Jason Wright book was on the list of finalists this year. I purposely put off reading The Wedding Letters until I'd read all of the other General fiction finalists. But yesterday I decided I wanted to close out the category, so I picked it up. This morning, 326 pages later, I finished it.

It wasn't bad. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it.

The plot: The book is a sequel to The Wednesday Letters, but my impression is that it takes place several decades after that book, in the current day. Noah Cooper (possibly a baby in the first book, now a college senior) runs over Rachel one day while she's out on her bike. It's love at first sight. He take her home to meet his family in Western Virginia, where they run Domus Jefferson (worst B&B name, ever!) and they love her too. Noah proposes just a few months after they meet, Rachel accepts, and then she finds out some troubling information from her past, and she does a runner. Since the family (who has decided to sell the B&B) already has the weekend blocked off and the caterers booked, they transform the weekend into a celebration of the family's 40+-year history of running the inn.

Just because I'm giving the book a (grudging) thumbs up doesn't mean I don't acknowledge some problems with it. First of all, it seems to be a conscious imitation of a Nicholas Sparks novel-- an epic romance against all odds, complete with grand plot twists. Wright acknowledges this several times. I think he refers to Sparks novels at least twice. I'm not much of a reader of Nicholas Sparks either, but I have seen The Notebook, and I think that Wright needed to spend a little more time really building up the love/drama/sexual tension between Noah and Rachel so readers would really want that dramatic ending. I knew it was coming, everyone knew it was coming, but I wanted to want it more, cheesy as it may be. And the details-- I don't need to know that Noah's truck is gold or that he buys a Diet Sierra Mist and a Kit Kat when he goes to 7-11 if those details aren't relevant.

My prediction is that The Wednesday Letters will win the General category. It's definitely inspirational fiction, as are all of the novels in the bunch this year. Once I stopped trying to read the books as literary fiction and started trying to accept them for what they were, too many details and cheesy endings and all, I can see that this story in particular, is very likeable and that many readers who want a good story and don't want their ideas or their intellect challenged too much as they read will love the book.
but for what it sets out to do, it does it well.


Reluctant Nomad said...

oy vey. You really think it will win? The more I know about the Whitneys, the more discouraged I get.

Andrew H. said...

I doubt it will win. It has gotten mediocre reviews from almost everyone I know who is a Whitney voter. I would say Nunes is the favorite, with Merril and Evans also having a chance.

Malibu said...

By far, this was my least favorite in this category. In any category. I sure hope it doesn't win. What a great big blah of a book!