“Letters from My Sister” by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Two families – one white, one black – both devoted to the land they’ve farmed together and to one another. Two brothers – one a loyal suitor, one a philanderer. Two sisters – one a refined Southern beauty, one a tree-climbing nonconformist. Stir into the mix a handsome stranger restoring a nearby farm to its former glory, a recently widowed but pregnant young mother with the face and voice of an angel, and an ancient former slave with the gift of second sight, and you have the recipe for Letters from My Sister (Revell 2023), a compelling romantic novel by Valerie Fraser Luesse.

Yet that’s all in addition to the tuberculosis outbreak, the murder, and the mysterious disappearance of a newborn baby that culminates in traumatic amnesia for one of the sisters.

Told from the point of view of 18-year-old Callie Bullock, the main conflict of the story involves the night she witnesses her beloved 20-year-old sister Emmy enter a creek carrying a small baby, only to return to shore alone. She represses the memory of an event she can’t fathom, but after a forced separation from her family, Callie remembers the events of that night as they are revealed in bits and pieces. We endure the mystery along with her, receiving solace from the drips and drabs of revelation contained in the correspondence between the two young women.

By the time everything is sorted out – with the help of the Almighty, some voices from beyond the grave, and a bit of ancient magic – the characters the readers have to come to care about are in the right places with the right romantic partners at last, and the future looks bright for the descendents of both families.

Set in the cotton fields of Alabama at the beginning of the 20th century, Letters from My Sister is about the ties that bind, and how they can be torn asunder when what we know to be true about someone conflicts with the evidence of our own eyes and ears. Better to trust the heart, after all, Luesse seems to say.

Valerie Fraser Luesse

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing IsaacAlmost HomeThe Key to EverythingUnder the Bayou Moon, and Letters from My Sister. She is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she retired as senior travel editor. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.




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