by Caite Dolan-Leach


I was sick last week, and foraging in my room for something good to read, was delighted to find my March Book of the Month selection. With only one exception, I have loved my BOMC choices. If you haven’t belonged for a while, check it out. They seem to be picking winners in new fiction, that I would probably not otherwise be aware of.

Dead Letters is told in the first person by Ava, who is leaving Paris to return home for the funeral of her twin, Zelda. Home is the New York Finger Lakes wine-growing region, home of the family vineyard. Zelda is presumed dead in a fire in their barn. In addition to Zelda, Ava’s family consists of her mother Nadine (in the throes of dementia), her father Marlon (back from his new family and vineyard in California), and paternal grandmother Opal. Every member of this family of alcoholics is troubled, so as a group they are a mess.

The plot is driven forward by Ava’s efforts to unravel the mystery of Zelda’s presumed death, as daily emails from Zelda herself drive Ava through an alphabet of dysfunction. Ava abandoned her family two years previously after breaking with Zelda over a man, and has been living in Paris while earning a graduate degree in literature. Her college degree was in oenology so she is also running from an obligation to run the failing vineyard.

I was so taken with Ava’s story that I finished this book in one day, which can only happen on sick days (sigh). I questioned Ava’s reliability as a narrator as the plot led me through unexpected twists, although I did see the end coming.

I am reminded of another novel about twins, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffineger, which I also loved. If you are a twin, please do let me know what you think about these books.