DEAR ABIGAIL

A letter to a little granddaughter

LOVE STORY FOR DEAR ABIGAIL. Richard Rees’s letter to a 2-year old granddaughter, tells the little one how much she was loved by her mother, who died at 30 from ovarian cancer. Yet, it’s a story of joy as well as sorrow, evoking such 5-star reviews from readers: “This is a beautiful, honest, funny, gut-wrenching book. A testament to the power of love in the face of great tragedy”. “This book made me laugh and cry. Not many books do that for me.”

Sitting in his study, alone with his thoughts, a man starts to write a letter to his little granddaughter. Why? Because he wants her to understand, when she gets older, who her mother was, and how much she sacrificed.

It is a harrowing story, but it is also a great “love story” and, in places, humorous. A story of hopes and fears, courage in the face of adversity, disappointments and setbacks, and ultimately the calm and dignified acceptance that what will be will be.

But, as Richard Rees’s story of his daughter unfolds, the reader realises, with something approaching dread, that there is an earlier history, a previous parallel which must be understood to be overcome.

The resulting ‘letter’, Dear Abigail, is both heart-rending and tender by turn, and also an act of healing; an attempt to find meaning in an apparently godless universe, that leads, ultimately, to faith through a miracle of daffodils.

But above all, it is an account of what it means to be human.

Mark Brittain, Daily Post

All the author’s royalties from this book will go to Target Ovarian Cancer.

Review from OnlineBookClub

This moving book, sub-titled A letter to a little granddaughter, tells Richard Rees’s own story of not only losing his wife Rachel to ovarian cancer when she is in her mid-forties, but the same terrible disease also takes his beloved daughter Carys when she’s just twenty-nine. Abigail, Carys’s daughter, is only two at the time and partly as a catharsis for his grief, Richard starts to write her a letter to be given to her when she’s older, telling her all about her precious Mummy. And as he writes, his letter grows longer to include a wider audience in passages that transcend the personal, becoming a study of deep love and deep loss.

Potential readers are likely to worry that this book could get mawkish. If so, they can rest easy. There is grief, of course, but there is humour too between the tears, arising both from how family members are characterized, and also from events described in the letter. Equally potent is how personal sorrow is used to explore wider themes. Both Rachel and Carys have strong religious beliefs, and the author finds his own faith shaken as he struggles to understand and accept what is happening. In the end, he confesses he can see no rhyme or reason in their deaths and finds himself asking: “Would it have spoilt some great eternal plan to have let them live, God?”

Consciously, or unconsciously, the letter throws up contrasts between the brief lives of Rachel and Carys, and the timelessness of the world that surrounds them. They live in a beautiful home looking across a bay at a landscape which has changed little in thousands of years. Even their furniture is antique, the oldest pieces having belonged to Rachel’s family for many centuries, “all ingrained with generations of loving polish, and invested with their dreams.” Add to that the references to family members long gone, brief quotes (with translations) of the ancient Welsh language they used, the sense of something immutable despite individual lives being brief, are all part of something much bigger that survives, and told through the flow and rhythm of the excellent prose running through this whole book.

Given the “letter’s” theme, it might be thought to be more suitable for adult readers, but there is nothing in it that makes it off-limits for older teenagers. It is also recommended to people who enjoy reading biographies and memoirs. Readers with caring responsibilities could also find it supportive.

The royalties from sales of this book go to a charity: Target Ovarian Cancer

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