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The Girl in the Letter    by Emily Gunnis order for
Girl in the Letter
by Emily Gunnis
Order:  USA  Can
Headline, 2019 (2019)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Girl in the Letter is a mystery by Emily Gunnis that moves back and forth in time, as readers wonder how, if at all, modern participants might relate to the original ones.

The novel opens in 1959 as Ivy Jenkins, an unmarried mother who has been essentially imprisoned by her parents in St. Margaret's Convent (a brutal home for the pregnant and unwed) pens a final letter before jumping to her death. Her baby daughter Rose had just been taken from her, for adoption. Ivy writes to a little girl, Elvira, whom she has befriended in the institution. Readers wonder why Elvira was even there. The letter offers Elvira a means to escape and urges her to 'RUN.'

Moving forward to 2017, readers meet reporter Samantha Harper. Sam shares her daughter Emma with her ex, Ben. Visiting her Nana, Sam comes across a letter from Ivy to her lover, telling him she's pregnant and begging for his help before she's sent to St Margaret's. Sam is intrigued and starts digging. Can she solve this sixty year old mystery?

Another key player is policeman's daughter Kitty Cannon, who has retired from the BBC after thirty years using 'television as a platform for the truth'. Kitty consults psychiatrist Richard Stone about the nightmares she's had since she met her twin sister as an eight-year-old on the sister's escape from St. Margaret's. Her sister died soon afterwards. Emily Gunnis links these story strands together in surprising ways as she takes readers back and forth between events in St. Margaret's and in 2017.

It's a disturbing novel, especially when one reads the Author's Note at the back, describing the workhouse conditions described at the fictional St. Margaret's as 'tragically, real' in such homes in the UK and Ireland.

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