Thursday, May 10, 2012

Letters In Cardboard Boxes by Abby Slovin

Letters In Cardboard Boxes

Before we get to the book review or giveaway, I want to let everyone know that Letters In Cardboard Boxes was presented the First Horizon Award for superior work by a debut author by

for Short Prose & Independent Books

Congratulations Abby!! What an accomplishment.

You can read about it here: 

Letters In Cardboard Boxes has also won the 2012 Da Vinci Eye Award for outstanding book cover art:

Book Description:

November 14, 2011
Experience what reviews are proclaiming, "An absolute must read. This is a novel you will want to keep with you for the rest of your life." And, "A poignant and moving story. . .a true work of art." Letters In Cardboard Boxes tells the story of an eccentric grandmother and her granddaughter, alongside a series of fantastical letters they once exchanged. Their letters traversed the East River to help Parker escape the loneliness of a childhood without her globe-trekking parents and communicate during her turbulent teenage years. Now, nearly a decade later, Parker begins to rediscover this letter writing tradition, as well as the family's untold stories and, unexpectedly, letters from her grandmother's own youth that paint a very different portrait of the woman who raised her. Letters carries us through the experience of loss and the process of coping with life's unexpected twists and turns. Through unusual and bold characters, the story moves through some of its heavier themes with honesty and humor.

About our Author:

Abby Slovin

Abby Slovin was born in the summer of 1983 and lived in the same house on Long Island until attending the University of Michigan. She has a deep love for New York City, Brooklyn especially, where much of her family has its roots. She loves to spend time outdoors, travel, research family genealogy, and relax at home in Jersey City with her husband, Dominick and dog, Grumpy.

Abby confides that some of her influences have been Kurt VonnegutCharles BaxterRuth OzekiWoody Allen, and  Emily Dickinson.

Sites to find Abby:

Twitter:  abbydabby

A Guest Post by our Author:

Writing really has the opportunity to come alive with reader participation. For me, the most exciting aspect of writing is this idea that readers infuse new life into the stories that I've created. I have no way of predicting how readers will react to my work, what sort of emotions my work will produce in them, or what kind of personal experiences the plot will conjure up. Writers can choose to deal with this lack of control with stress or embrace it, perhaps even find it exhilarating. I chose the latter.

Along this line, many readers have been intrigued by the concept of the Discussion Corner -- a feature that accompanied the online release of Letters In Cardboard Boxes and a format that I plan on repeating with future work (By way of background, Letters was released in the "traditional" paperback and ebook formats, but also online where chapters were released weekly to subscribers). At the end of each chapter of Letters, a discussion question drew on the themes of that particular chapter, asking readers to contribute their thoughts, and often requesting a more personal reaction that related to the reader's own experience.

I chose to include this type of platform alongside the chapters for two reasons. The first, which I touch upon briefly above, relates to my own feelings about the power of discussion to breath new life into writing, oftentimes producing energy around a story that a writer cannot possibly predict and ultimately leading to interpretations of the text that the writer does not expect. 

The other reason for the Discussion Corner relates to the subject matter at hand. Letters tackles some very personal topics: loss, aging, grief, and family dynamics. No doubt, readers were bound to have personal, possibly even extreme reactions to at least some of the topics and I wondered if readers, in addition to sharing their own thoughts about the issues, would feel a sense of comfort from hearing other reader responses. I felt that the distance (at times, anonymity) of the Internet might encourage more people to contribute their personal thoughts than if this were an in-person book club discussion or other platform.  

One thing that was noticeably absent from the Discussion Corner was overall critique of the novel itself. There are forums for critique of the novel, like GoodReads, Amazon, and Shelfari, and I have gained so much from the thoughtful critique on these forums. But, I purposely wanted the Discussion Corner to be about personal interactions with the novel, and responses to specific, significant moments in the story. In order to maintain the authenticity of the discussion, I tended to veer away from questions that might produce more critique of the story than the sense of community and emotion that is present when readers are responding to more personal prompts.  

The experience of the Discussion Corner has given so many new layers of meaning to the story for me and, I hope, for my readers. And, now that I've been able to build a much stronger readership, my hope is that my next project will have an even more lively discussion corner. I hope some of your readers will join me on the next adventure.

(Readers are encouraged to email me at to join my mailing list and be updated on future projects!)    

Quotes from Letters:

Parker almost didn’t check her mail when she came home that day. She rarely received more than a few fliers or a coupon book …phone rang…Startled, she knocked the pile to the floor and realized that High Volume was likely not necessary for her 800-square foot apartment. “Hello?” She bent down to recover the scattered mail and stretched far under the faded black suede loveseat

“You didn’t lie! Oh this is ridiculous. Are you calling from beyond the grave! Should I get my Ouija board out, Grandma?”

Parker pressed the tips of her fingers into her forehead in an attempt to fight off the headache that had begun to fester. She tried to recall if she still had enough pain reliever in the medicine cabinet, while fully aware that there likely wasn’t enough pain reliever in the world for the headache she knew she would soon have. “Glady and I were together after the Thanksgiving Social at the community center.

“I don’t know. But you’re not dead. You can’t get your dying wish until you’re dead. End of story.”

“You can wait until I’m dead to give my clothes to Goodwill. But when I’m gone, that’s exactly what I want you to do, okay?”

Parker asked, “Can you ask your therapist about this?”…“Look at me, Parker, seriously. I’m 35- years-old. I see my boyfriend in Malibu twice a week on my web cam. My puppy won’t move from under my kitchen table. I’ve been in the same dead end job for ten years. Do you really think I can afford to take time away from my session?”

Parker knew that at the top of this particular closet, in an unmarked cardboard box, she would find the letters. The box was dull and unassuming and, if not for its contents, almost hopelessly ugly. She stared, anticipating with some level of avoidance, the decades of memories held within. Something drew her to the box despite this little bit of dread. She heard it whispering through the closet door as she turned the knob day in and day out, though she had always ignored it until now. As she lifted the cover and dropped it to the side…

“Sixteen.” Parker exhaled dramatically, hoping to indicate that she could relate. “I remember  being sixteen.” …”I remember being angry.”

“But, how can I be in a senior mentor program if I’m not old enough?”…”Well, from four to six on Wednesday, you will be a senior.”

“This one says October 5th, 2006. Not bad for a little over a year we might have the beginnings of a drinking problem, Grandma.” “Sweetie it’s not a problem if we do it together-“ Parker liked this rationalization, it was used often. She enjoyed the comfort of these shared memories, a scrapbook of sorts. Over the years, they had accumulated a certain expertise on wine that had no academic basis, but more of an experiential one. They knew which wine varieties suited them, based solely on the variety of shared moments they had with each bottle. Rarely did they understand the good years or the regional distinctions of each bottle, but they understood their good years and the distinctions of those years, which was the only thing that mattered to them.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand these bumper stickers. I would think, the more you believe in something, the less you’d want to stick it on your car. Just ridiculous the way people flaunt beliefs like they’re pocketbooks.” Parker nodded again but had nothing to contribute.

“Parker, I’m old.” She said matter-of-factly. “I get away with these sorts of things.” She continued to wave and smile wildly” (to people passing their car.) “People treat me like an idiot so I’m allowed to act like one from time to time. it’s one of the perks.”

March 15, 1989, Dear Parker…All my love Grandma

As Parker fell asleep, her grandmother whispered softly into her ear,”Time to worry about you, my dear.” She paused and then whispered again, “I won’t always be around, you know…”…Parker only partially processed her grandmother’s words as she drifted off.

As Tanya gazed at Phila, her hand was very naturally, quite unconsciously, fondling the tip of her ear as if she were giving it a gentle massage. To anyone else, this would likely have gone unnoticed, at most passed off as a minor quirk of Tanya’s. parker, though, immediately recognized this as nothing short of the exact thing that her grandmother did when she was thinking very carefully and deeply about something. A wave of nausea washed over her as Parker shouted, “I’ve got to get home.”

April 10, 1991…Dear Parker…All My Love, Grandma.

The image of the cardboard box in her hall closet sat stubbornly in her mind the entire way home, like a steel barricade in the way of any other thought. Parker did not drop her bag or take her shoes off as she burst through the front door of her apartment, dragging puddles along the hardwood floor with her soaked shoes. She jumped up and knocked the cardboard box off the shelf, sending her letters crashing to the ground. Parker would have known where to find the one particular letter she was looking for had the box stayed intact…She scanned the hallway for the one that didn’t belong, the one she had written. The only one her grandmother had ever sent back (to her.)

October 27, 1994…She was sixteen years old. Her letter bled from word to word, in three sour sentences: No more letters. I don’t live in a fantasy world. Neither should you.

June 6, 1994…Dear Parker…All My Love, Grandma.

November 23, 1995…Dear Parker…All My Love, Grandma.

“I know they’re Post-Its. Why are they here?” “So we don’t forget where things are.” “OVEN.” “PHONE.” “Are you listening to yourself, Parker: Where do you get the ridiculous ideas?” “They’re not ridiculous ideas! Don’t say that.” “They are ridiculous! You’re acting like a mental patient!” “Why? Because I’m trying to keep things normal around here? Because I’m trying to keep you from sliding away?!”…. “Okay.” She interlocked her arm with Parker’s as she stood next to her, tears racing Parker’s to the ground. “Okay, we’ll do whatever you need to do.”

My Review:

         From the beautiful, haunting cover until you close the book, Letters In Cardboard Boxes keeps you rooted to your chair and turning pages. The relationship between Parker and her grandmother is an extraordinary one, and in today’s society, one that is often more the norm than anything else, due to so many grandparents raising grandchildren.

         The book takes place over the course of a year’s time, a time in which the seasons begin to represent the seasons of our lives. We all have a spring (our birth) and we transcend through our summer, fall, and then into the winter of our lives. It is a story of loss.

         Parker and her grandmother share wonderful traditions and we have the chance to see how these traditions help Parker through her grieving. As Dotty’s condition deteriorates, Parker learns things about her grandmother that she never knew. Dotty was active as a senior mentor to a young girl. This young girl, Tanya, will eventually bridge the gap between Parker and Dotty, helping Parker to accept Dotty’s illness. Their relationship continues to change throughout the book as they face the inevitable and find ways to cope.

         Letters In Cardboard Boxes is a wonderful book. Abby takes you on an extraordinary journey into the lives of Parker, Dotty, and Tanya. It is a book about having someone close succumb to Alzheimer’s. It is about learning to cope with your memories, the memories that make you who you are, while watching as those memories disappear from someone’s mind. It is about struggling to hold on to who you are, when the one person who makes you who you are, is disappearing.

         I definitely recommend reading the book. It is very well written. The characters have been painstakingly developed to their fullest potential. It is a book that will speak to your heart.

Letters In Cardboard Boxes can be purchased through Amazon:

NOW, We have a give away. Abby has offered to give away two e-books of Letters In Cardboard Boxes. We are doing a Rafflecopter give away.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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