While perusing NetGalley, I came across Hannah Brencher's memoir, If You Find This Letter and my gut told me that this might be a special book. I think it may have been a twinge of nostalgia for my high school/college years in the mid-90's, when I was a voracious letter writer. I still have an enormous box filled with letters from friends and family all over the world. I treasure them. Thank you to Howard Books for the advanced copy of Brencher's memoir.
PLOT - After finishing college, Hannah Brencher moves to New York to spend a year volunteering for a non-profit. Although she has a strong support system of family and friends, Brencher feels lost and lonely in New York City. Throughout her life, she has been bolstered through letters of support from her loved ones. Brencher was the girl in college who always had something other than a bill or junk mail in her post box.
One day, while riding the subway, Brencher sees a woman who seemed as lonely as Brencher fells. Rather than approaching this seemingly kindred spirit, Brencher grabbed her notebook and started to write the woman a letter. A love letter, to boost her moral and to show her that someone, even if it's a stranger, cared. So engrossed in her letter writing, Brencher failed to notice that the woman had exited the train. Undeterred, Brencher got the idea to just leave the letter out in the world for whoever might find it and she didn't stop with a single letter, she started writing them and leaving them all over the city.
The letter idea shifted when Brencher posted about it on her blog and mentioned that she would write a letter to anyone who requested one. Not expecting to get many request, she was shocked when they started pouring in. The letter idea took off like wildfire and prompted other people to write their own letters.
In her memoir, Brencher writes about her own doubts with the letter project and in general with her life. She struggles with her spirituality and the death of a close friend. She is deeply affected by some of the stories that she is learning about the recipients of her letters.
LIKE - Brencher has a great idea with the letters and is clearly affecting the lives of many people. She has an infectious positive attitude and she is a big dreamer who really is working to pass along her message of love and kindness. It's going to sound cheesy to some people, but personally, I think the world could use more people like Brencher. I really liked the parts of her memoir where she showed the stories of recipients of the letters, in particular her high school friends. I cried when she lost her friend to cancer. It was heartbreaking. There are many passages in the book that made me paused, because I found them to be quite profound. I love Brencher's relationship with her mother, in particular the section regarding her mother's birthday party. I finished the book feeling very grateful and appreciative for the people in my own life.
DISLIKE - As much as I enjoyed, If You Find This Letter, I struggled with much of Brencher's personality on the page. I think it's because she's young and now that I'm in my late-thirties, I don't relate to being that age anymore. It seemed like everything in her life was a total drama or that she was always on the verge of a breakdown. This would have been okay in segments, but it was difficult to sustain for an entire book. I'm not religious and I don't mind reading about faith, however it was overpowering. I think it could be ( maybe it is?) labeled as a "Christian" book. I understand the importance of her faith and God in her life and having it be a big part of her themes, but it was too much. In general, many of the ideas that she puts forth are solid and meaningful. but then she mentions the same thing in a variety of ways, which lesses the impact. I felt like I was being beat over the head with the same message.
RECOMMEND - Yes. Even if you are not compelled to read her memoir, I would recommend looking up Brencher and checking out her website. She is doing good work! I'd recommend this book to a younger crowed, late teens- early twenties. Brencher's troubles would probably be very relatable to this age group and she could be an inspiration. This is not to say that an older crowd wouldn't enjoy it, but they may find some of the same issues that I did.
NOTE - If her letter idea continues to pick up steam or morphs into something else amazing, I'd love to read a book by her when she is a little older, maybe in ten years, when she has a different perspective.