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‘The Letter’

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Anthony Sciarratta’s The Letter (Post Hill Press) is a romance that examines both the power of faith and the strength of love. 

Author Anthony Sciarratta

Victor Esposito is a novelist who came to success in this thirties with each work featuring a very distinct female protagonist. His readers are unaware that she is not solely (or wholly) a creation of fiction: She is based on Eva Abrams, a vibrant and quirky individual he met by chance at concert just over a decade before. Eva, married with three children, was as drawn to Victor as he is to her. The two embarked on an intense but painfully platonic affair that lasted about year. “How could you see someone you know is perfect for you and never act on your feelings?”

After meeting two and three times a week, Eva broke it off with no explanation. During the ensuing years, the two had no contact. But she continued to be his muse, fueling his creative process: “To write a book about someone, to capture every groove of their face, curve of their body, and thought in their head, takes a great deal of studying … It was a special bond they shared that no person would ever come to understand.”  

Now in his forties, Victor is a successful writer living in a luxurious Manhattan apartment. One night, he is shot during a bodega hold-up while saving a mother and child, resulting in his ending up in a coma. When Eva learns of this, she immediately leaves her Long Island home to be at his bedside. His mother, Barbara, immediately recognizes who this woman must be: “Victor has no children, no wife. You’re the only mark he left on this world. His life’s work is because of you.”

While sitting vigil, Eva examines the choices that have brought her to this juncture. Coming from an abusive and unstable childhood, Eva gave up her dreams of being a musician for the constancy of domestic life, married to the steady but disconnected Stanley. While being a mother gave her great joy, the marriage was never fulfilling resulting in a gnawing sense of loss.  

Meanwhile, Victor does not regain consciousness. He is transported to a limbo where he, too, examines his life choices, in particular his brief relationship with Eva that motivated the change in his career from carpenter to writer. In this netherworld, he is guided by the enigmatic Benedict, who turns out to be someone from Victor’s earlier life.  This half-world becomes populated with important figures of his and Eva’s histories.

Throughout, the characters are revealed in all their humanity, wearing their scars just below the surface. Sciarratta is not afraid to show confrontation or petty jealousies. These moments lend further dimension and texture.  

The cover of ‘The Letter’

Also present is the shadowy figure of Louis, who appears just before the bodega incident, and then returns in the book’s final chapters. He is the dark angel that lurks in the mind’s shadows: “I bet you have a lot of regrets now. You had everything: Money, health, and a great career. Being a good guy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, huh, buddy?” He is a chilling figure that offers temptation and relief. This emissary of worst fears adds further conflict to the final road in Victor’s journey.  

While the book is primarily a romance, it has elements of mystery as Sciarratta unravels his lead characters narratives.  

His lovers’ consummation is unusual — if not unique — in its setting. It is both ardent and detailed.  However, this does not in any way obscure the romantic force of the novel. Eva is his “North Star, guiding him through a depression by showing him what unconditional love feels like. She had looked past his sadness, despair, and anger to find a man with a beautiful soul …” A pair of socks given at a candlelit lunch in the park become a particularly compelling totem, representing a deeper caring than even the most fervid caress can show.

The story also nods to the solace drawn from belief: “Eva protected those she loved with a shroud of prayer, hoping that God would bless the lives that meant so much to her.” It is this mix of the spiritual and the visceral that are the foundations of both the story and the relationship. Whether drawn from religion or from nature, they find their way. In a touching episode, Victor sees himself in a wounded bird that he gently cradles in his hands; knowing that it wants to live but also accepting that death is part of the plane of human existence.  

Ultimately, The Letter addresses the issue of soul mates. This is seeded at the outset and blooms in its epilogue. It is about the alchemy of love and its power to heal wounds, whether psychological or physical. It is a bold statement in a book that tells its story with straightforward passion and wide-eyed honesty.  

The Letter is available at bookrevue.com, barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.