Letters Never Sent – Sandra Moran

GCLS clean logoLetters Never Sent Sandra MoranJoan arrives at her mother’s house, her childhood home, tasked with cleaning it out and making inventory, so the house can be sold. For Joan it’s a difficult trip she could live without. Her own life is in a muddle and she feels strange revisiting the house she feels disconnected from, and the memories of her mother, Katherine, with whom she had at best a distant and loveless relationship.

As she explores the remnants of their lives, and her feelings, she comes across a box of mementos and letters. Written by her mother in the 1950’s they reveal a woman Joan never knew and a passionate love affair that changes everything she thinks about her family.

As the story unfolds we visit the 1930’s where Katherine is a rebel, leaving the family farm in small-town Kansas to work in Chicago. Here she meets the even more daring Annie and they form a friendship that will change both of their lives.


Sandra Moran’s novel is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most moving and emotional books I have ever read. It has already won awards and accolades from numerous sources and been reviewed literally hundreds of times. In some ways I feel as though there is nothing extra I can add to the huge wave of praise the book has been awarded since its publication. But this book, more than almost any I have read in the last few years, hit a chord for me personally which makes me want to add my voice.

For me the interplay of current and historical drama, when done well, always adds a level of emotional engagement. Novels like ‘Letters’ along with others such as Lynne Ames “Eyes on the Stars” and Jae’s “Backwards to Oregon” immerse us in a different world. For me that adds even more intensity to the storytelling because everything has been precisely imagined and described to build the ambience of the scene. Add into that mix the melodrama of love destroyed, of heartbreak, lesbians loving straight girls, a hostile social environment and I am a total sucker.

Ms Moran layers the interplay of current and historical revelation brilliantly. She holds the suspense of what happens next, while at the same time giving so many false trails for our emotions that the twist, when it happened, took me completely by surprise. I spent more than half the novel in tears, expecting the tragedy to unfold as the scattered trailmix of clues suggested it would.

For a first novel this is unbelievably well written. If I hadn’t known in advance that this was Ms. Moran’s first book I simply would not have believed it. The level of maturity in the writing style of the plot, jumping backwards and forwards between the 1930s and present, and depth and emotional maturity of the characters is incredible.

On top of all of this we get a wonderful view of life for women in Chicago in the 1930s. Well researched, as one would expect from an academic historian, but more importantly well rendered by a great storyteller. She held me spellbound through 320 pages. I couldn’t put it down because I so wanted to know what the uncle knew, why the letters stopped, why their relationship was so bad. And yet I couldn’t bear for it to end.
Sandra Moran biog
Now “Letters Never Sent” is being nominated for a new round of awards (last year it won the Rainbow Awards for Best Lesbian Historical Romance and Best Lesbian Debut) and there is a new furore building about Ms. Moran’s second novel “Nudge”.

It doesn’t matter how late you come to this book, it will prove to be timeless. Don’t think for a moment you can pass it by and find something equally as good. This is one not to be missed.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 321 pages
  • First published 2013
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink (December 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
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