By Ell Turpitt
A year after her best friend’s disappearance, Laura receives a strange letter, offering a clue to Bobby’s whereabouts if she gives him something personal. Laura, not knowing what else to do, does as she’s asked, and continues to do so, exchanging her humiliation for coordinates, pushing her into a quest for closure while her pen-pal becomes more and more obsessed.
Gemma Amor is the author of the story collection Cruel Works of Nature, and co-writer for Calling Darkness, my favourite podcast. Although I haven’t read her collection, I knew from the podcast how talented a writer she is, so it was no surprise to me that I was completely absorbed in Laura’s story.
Laura is desperate to gain closure on Bobby’s disappearance, not just for herself but for his family too. And she takes so much on her young teen shoulders, realising quickly she has gone too far to back out. Her whole world is dictated by this mysterious man, even when she tries to forge a life for herself, even when she tries to take control, it doesn’t work.
Dear Laura is a novella about cruelty and obsession, about love and the desire to please. Laura convinces herself that pleasing the mysterious X will result in her discovering what happened to Bobby, and perhaps Bobby himself, and although a unique story, her character and actions are so believable and relatable, even when the reader feels she needs to take another path, it becomes hard to argue against the one she travels. And, eventually, the threat isn’t just against her, but her family, her husband and her son, and like many other women, Laura takes that on by herself, determined to protect them, even if she couldn’t protect Bobby.
It’s hard not to feel for Laura, not to want to reach through the pages and hug her, tell her everything will be okay, because no one else is willing to. No one else seems to look upon the teenage girl and realise something is seriously wrong. She isolates herself to protect them, and continues her quest on her own, a quest that spans decades. The book alternates between past and present, and each twist and turn has an affect on the reader, leaving them squirming and desperate to read on, to discover how this resolves, if it ever does.
Don’t make the mistake I did. Make sure to start reading this when you have the time to read it all, because my biggest regret with this book is that I wasn’t able to read it in one sitting. Laura is a formidable character, strong and determined, and able to carry the reader through everything, making them as much as a hostage to the story as she is. And the realism of the events, the reality of it all, adds to the power of the novella itself.
A fantastic tale, gripping and harrowing. Definitely not one to miss.