Dear Mr. Helprin Excerpt
I have read thousands of books in my fifty-four years, and although I have been satisfied, entertained, and taught by the majority of them, I have never been compelled to write to the author. In Sunlight and in Shadow not only compels me but also created an imperative that you know what your craft and gift has evoked.
I have enjoyed your previous works, underlining and marking them with my personal connections to a particular passage. For the past month and a half, I have traveled with In Sunlight and spent an hour or two each day enjoying the lives of Harry and Catherine, underlining passages and marking notes of connections. Yesterday, I came home with the final chapters left to read and, at 7:00 a.m., settled into my favorite spot in front of the window, anxiously anticipating the final act of war and joyous reunion of your characters.
My wife sat down next to me as I turned the final two pages, but my eyes, mist filled and cloudy, made the final paragraphs nearly impossible to see. I had to read them once, twice, just to comprehend their meaning and significance. I closed the cover, barely keeping my composure, when she asked, “Did it end the way you thought it would?”
I stood up, dizzy and emotional, and, as expeditiously as possible, went into another room to regroup and pat my eyes. When I returned, she was waiting for my answer, and I said, “This book is a wonderful experience that reminds me…” And I started again to lose my balance, my throat constricting, eyes filling.
“Reminds me of certain songs that when you hear them, fill you with memories, like Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ and…”
All was lost. Standing in front of her, I covered my face with both hands and sobbed uncontrollably and without reserve. What my wife did not yet know was that the conclusion of your book, the unborn child hungering for his father’s words that would never be heard, the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and a scene from just twelve hours before had all collided into a heartbroken, sad, appreciative father and reader.