Monday, July 30, 2012

AUNT DIMITY'S DEATH by Nancy Atherton







I had put into [the pages I wrote] all I had learned since I had come to the cottage. I wrote about pain and loss and disappointment, about splendid plans going tragically awry. And I wrote about courage and hope and healing. It wasn’t hard to do--it was all there already, in the stories. There were no names mentioned, of course, and the sentences were simple, and that had been the most difficult part: to say what I needed to say, in a voice that would speak to a child.

I also tried to speak to the adult that child would one day become. I urged her not to let the book lie dusty and forgotten on a shelf, but to keep it nearby and to reread it now and again, as a reminder of all the good things that life’s trials might tempt her to forget.

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Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity’s Death is a love story. Actually, it is three love stories, two of which become clearer as the mystery unfolds.

A prominent law firm contacts recently-divorced Lori Shepherd. A wealthy friend of Lori’s mother remembered Lori in her will. She offered to pay the struggling Lori ten thousand dollars to put her letters in order. To do that, Lori has to travel to England with the firm’s junior partner Bill, the son of the firm’s founder.

Lori never knew her benefactor "Aunt" Dimity. Dimity wrote letters to Lori's mother, a wartime friend. Dimity filled her letters with made-up stories. Lori and her stuffed rabbit (which Dimity made for Lori) grow up listening to Dimity’s stories.

Dimity’s troubled spirit remains in Dimity’s rural English cottage. Lori and Bill live there while Lori compiles the letters. Dimity’s spirit “communicates” with Lori by writing in a blank journal.

If all this sounds very cozy, it is. But it is a beautiful story too. Lori works through the papers. She learns about her troubled relationship with her own mother. She also learns of both her mother’s and Dimity’s wartime loves.

I can’t say enough good things about this story. It is not a mystery novel in the traditional sense. There are no murders. There is just the unfolding of the backstory and of how the backstory touches those alive today.

This is a book about the power of stories. I found Aunt Dimity’s Death well worth reading. 

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