Letters For Emily

( 29 )

Overview

You are so young. You may wonder what an old man like me could teach? I wonder as well. I certainly don't claim to know all the answers. I'm barely figuring out the questions...Life has a strange way of repeating itself and I want my experience to help you...My hope is that you'll consider my words and remember my heart.
Harry Whitney is dying. He has Alzheimer's disease, and he knows his "good" time is dwindling. So he compiles a book of poems for his favorite granddaughter, ...

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Overview

You are so young. You may wonder what an old man like me could teach? I wonder as well. I certainly don't claim to know all the answers. I'm barely figuring out the questions...Life has a strange way of repeating itself and I want my experience to help you...My hope is that you'll consider my words and remember my heart.
Harry Whitney is dying. He has Alzheimer's disease, and he knows his "good" time is dwindling. So he compiles a book of poems for his favorite granddaughter, Emily, hoping that his words of hard-won wisdom will heal the old wounds that are tearing his family apart. But Harry's poems contain much more than meets the eye — clues and riddles that lead to an extraordinary cache of letters and a promise of hidden gold. As Emily and her family uncover Harry's secrets one by one, they learn unforgettable lessons about romance, forgiveness and hope that might hold them all together.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Mary Higgins Clark Clever, heartwarming, and heartfelt, Letters for Emily is a novel every member of the family should read. I love it!

The Boston Herald [A] heartwarmer in the tradition of Mitch Albom's...Tuesdays with Morrie.

Richard Paul Evans, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Promise An exceptional story, gleaming with goodness and hope.

Publishers Weekly
In this tearjerker of a debut novel, author Wright delves into a family's struggle with a dying parent's mental illness, a marriage breakup and a mysterious legacy left for a seven-year-old granddaughter. Widower Harry Whitney is old and dying. Alzheimer's disease is taking its toll, and he wants only two things to die with dignity and to be remembered as the good man he once was, not as the drooling, cranky old coot he is becoming. His children are estranged, their marriages on the rocks, and his only true friend is his granddaughter, Emily. After Harry dies, his daughter-in-law, Laura, finds three identical homemade books filled with Harry's poems and stories. As she and Emily discover, each poem and story contains a secret, coded password linked to computer files. The files each hold a special letter to Emily confessions, revelations, advice, even a hint of hidden gold. After Harry's son and daughter read the letters, too, they begin to realize that Harry was a pretty amazing father after all. Wright's word picture of old Harry slowly dying and knowing it is powerful and gripping, as are his vivid portrayals of nursing homes, adult children making tough decisions for elderly parents and the insensitivity of the medicare system. His melodramatic characterizations of husbands and wives involved in divorce proceedings are less successful, but Harry's letters to Emily are eloquent enough to make this a worthwhile read overall. 12-city author tour. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Jan.) Forecast: Originally self-published, this novel was a regional bestseller in Utah. It lacks a seasonal hook, and so may not catch on as easily as its close cousin, The Christmas Box, but it is otherwise equipped with all the key trappings of grassroots success including a blurb from Mary Higgins Clark and poems by Wright's grandfather, the inspiration for the book. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Before losing his mind to Alzheimer's, Harry Whitney composes a book of poems for his favorite granddaughter that he hopes will heal the entire family. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A grandfather's legacy to his troubled family.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743444477
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 433,652
  • Product dimensions: 0.52 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 8.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Camron Wright is a graduate of Brigham Young University. Letters for Emily, his first novel, was inspired by the writings of his late grandfather. He lives with his family near Salt Lake City. Visit his website at www.lettersforemily.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

My bed is frigid and the room dark. I've placed many blankets on my bed, but they don't stop the cold Wasatch wind that penetrates to my bones. I stare through the window at my snow-covered plants and realize I will miss my garden. I will miss the way the carrots emerge from seeds not much bigger than dust. I will miss thinning beets in the late spring. I will miss digging for new potatoes in the fall. I will miss harvesting buckets of zucchini for unsuspecting neighbors who will then have no idea what to do with them; and I will even miss watching the plants turn brown and die each year as winter sets in.

My garden has taught me that every living thing must die. I have watched it happen now for scores of years — I only wish I could have a few more summers in my garden with Emily.

I have other grandchildren, and I don't mean to play favorites, but the others live far away and seldom visit. Emily visits with her mother every Friday. Though our ages are more than seven decades apart, Emily and I are best friends.

My name is Harry, a laughable name for a man who's been completely bald most of his life. But, hairy or not, it's my name nonetheless. It was my father's name before me, and his father's before him. I wish I could say it was a name I passed on to my own son. I can't. When he was born and it came time to give him a name, we chose Bob instead. He rarely visits; he never writes. Now, on occasion, I wish I'd named him Harry as well.

Strangely, I'm not bitter about what is happening to me. Why should I be? I am no better than anyone else. I am no wiser, no stronger, and no smarter. (Okay, I am smarter than ol' man Ross who lives next door but that's beside the point.) So then, why not me?

I hope to go quickly so I'll be remembered as Grandpa Harry and not as the person I'm becoming. I fear I'll be remembered as a contemptible, cranky old man and that thought sickens me. The fact is, I'm losing my mind. I have Alzheimer's — an insidious disease that causes the nerve cells in the brain to degenerate. As it works its havoc, the brain shrinks and wastes away — dementia sets in, causing disorientation and confusion. There is no cure, no way to slow its determined progression.

This disease is a thief. It begins with short spells of forgetfulness, but before it's finished, it steals everything. It takes your favorite color, the smell of your favorite food, the night of your first kiss, your love of golf. Droplets of shimmering water cleansing the earth during an invigorating spring shower simply become rain. Mammoth snowflakes blanketing the ground in white at the onset of winter's first storm merely seem cold. Your heart beats, your lungs suck in air, your eyes see images, but inside you are dead. Inside your spirit is gone. I say it is an insidious disease because in the end, it steals your existence — even your very soul. In the end I will forget Emily.

The disease is progressing, and even now people are beginning to laugh. I do not hate them for it; they laugh with good reason. I would laugh as well at the stupid things I do. Two days ago I peed in the driveway in my front yard. I had to go and at the time it seemed like a great spot. A week before, I woke up in the middle of the night, walked into the kitchen, and tried to gargle with the dishwashing liquid that is kept in the cupboard beneath the sink. I thought I was in the bathroom, and the green liquid was the same color as my mouthwash. I get nervous. I get scared, and I cry; I cry like a baby over the most ridiculous things. During my life, I've seldom cried.

There are times when I can still think clearly, but each day I feel my good time fading — my existence getting shorter. During my good spells, now just an hour or two a day, I sit at my desk and I write. I crouch over the keyboard on my computer and I punch the keys wildly. It's an older computer, but it serves its purpose well. It's the best gift Bob has given me in years. It's an amazing machine and every time I use it, I marvel at how it captures my words. Younger people who have grown up with computers around them don't appreciate the truly miraculous machines they are. They create magic.

I'm not a good writer, but I've loved writing stories and poems all of my life. Writing always made me feel immortal — as if I were creating an extension of my life that nothing could destroy. It was exhilarating.

I no longer write for excitement. There are times when my back aches and my eyes blur, and I can't get my fingers to hit the right keys, but I continue. I write now for Emily. She is just seven years old. I doubt she'll remember my face; I doubt she'll remember the crooked fingers on my wrinkled hands or the age spots on my skin or my shiny, bald head. But hopefully, by some miracle, she will read my stories and my poems and she'll remember my heart, and consider me as her friend. That is my deepest desire.

At times I feel bad that I'm not writing to my other grandchildren, but I hardly know them. While they visit every Christmas, they don't stay long. They are courteous, but they treat me like a stranger. It's not their fault. I'm not angry with them, and I hope they aren't angry with me.

My worst fear is that before I finish, I will slip completely into the grasp of the terrible monster, never to return. If this happens, my prayer would be that those around me might forget — but they will not forget — and then, worse than being forgotten, I will be remembered as a different person than I truly am. I will be despised.

I vow not to let this happen, so during my good times, I write — I write for Emily.

Copyright © 2001 by Camron Wright

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First Chapter

Chapter One

My bed is frigid and the room dark. I've placed many blankets on my bed, but they don't stop the cold Wasatch wind that penetrates to my bones. I stare through the window at my snow-covered plants and realize I will miss my garden. I will miss the way the carrots emerge from seeds not much bigger than dust. I will miss thinning beets in the late spring. I will miss digging for new potatoes in the fall. I will miss harvesting buckets of zucchini for unsuspecting neighbors who will then have no idea what to do with them; and I will even miss watching the plants turn brown and die each year as winter sets in.

My garden has taught me that every living thing must die. I have watched it happen now for scores of years -- I only wish I could have a few more summers in my garden with Emily.

I have other grandchildren, and I don't mean to play favorites, but the others live far away and seldom visit. Emily visits with her mother every Friday. Though our ages are more than seven decades apart, Emily and I are best friends.

My name is Harry, a laughable name for a man who's been completely bald most of his life. But, hairy or not, it's my name nonetheless. It was my father's name before me, and his father's before him. I wish I could say it was a name I passed on to my own son. I can't. When he was born and it came time to give him a name, we chose Bob instead. He rarely visits; he never writes. Now, on occasion, I wish I'd named him Harry as well.

Strangely, I'm not bitter about what is happening to me. Why should I be? I am no better than anyone else. I am no wiser, no stronger, and no smarter. (Okay, I am smarter than ol' man Ross who lives next door but that's beside the point.) So then, why not me?

I hope to go quickly so I'll be remembered as Grandpa Harry and not as the person I'm becoming. I fear I'll be remembered as a contemptible, cranky old man and that thought sickens me. The fact is, I'm losing my mind. I have Alzheimer's -- an insidious disease that causes the nerve cells in the brain to degenerate. As it works its havoc, the brain shrinks and wastes away -- dementia sets in, causing disorientation and confusion. There is no cure, no way to slow its determined progression.

This disease is a thief. It begins with short spells of forgetfulness, but before it's finished, it steals everything. It takes your favorite color, the smell of your favorite food, the night of your first kiss, your love of golf. Droplets of shimmering water cleansing the earth during an invigorating spring shower simply become rain. Mammoth snowflakes blanketing the ground in white at the onset of winter's first storm merely seem cold. Your heart beats, your lungs suck in air, your eyes see images, but inside you are dead. Inside your spirit is gone. I say it is an insidious disease because in the end, it steals your existence -- even your very soul. In the end I will forget Emily.

The disease is progressing, and even now people are beginning to laugh. I do not hate them for it; they laugh with good reason. I would laugh as well at the stupid things I do. Two days ago I peed in the driveway in my front yard. I had to go and at the time it seemed like a great spot. A week before, I woke up in the middle of the night, walked into the kitchen, and tried to gargle with the dishwashing liquid that is kept in the cupboard beneath the sink. I thought I was in the bathroom, and the green liquid was the same color as my mouthwash. I get nervous. I get scared, and I cry; I cry like a baby over the most ridiculous things. During my life, I've seldom cried.

There are times when I can still think clearly, but each day I feel my good time fading -- my existence getting shorter. During my good spells, now just an hour or two a day, I sit at my desk and I write. I crouch over the keyboard on my computer and I punch the keys wildly. It's an older computer, but it serves its purpose well. It's the best gift Bob has given me in years. It's an amazing machine and every time I use it, I marvel at how it captures my words. Younger people who have grown up with computers around them don't appreciate the truly miraculous machines they are. They create magic.

I'm not a good writer, but I've loved writing stories and poems all of my life. Writing always made me feel immortal -- as if I were creating an extension of my life that nothing could destroy. It was exhilarating.

I no longer write for excitement. There are times when my back aches and my eyes blur, and I can't get my fingers to hit the right keys, but I continue. I write now for Emily. She is just seven years old. I doubt she'll remember my face; I doubt she'll remember the crooked fingers on my wrinkled hands or the age spots on my skin or my shiny, bald head. But hopefully, by some miracle, she will read my stories and my poems and she'll remember my heart, and consider me as her friend. That is my deepest desire.

At times I feel bad that I'm not writing to my other grandchildren, but I hardly know them. While they visit every Christmas, they don't stay long. They are courteous, but they treat me like a stranger. It's not their fault. I'm not angry with them, and I hope they aren't angry with me.

My worst fear is that before I finish, I will slip completely into the grasp of the terrible monster, never to return. If this happens, my prayer would be that those around me might forget -- but they will not forget -- and then, worse than being forgotten, I will be remembered as a different person than I truly am. I will be despised.

I vow not to let this happen, so during my good times, I write -- I write for Emily.

Copyright © 2001 by Camron Wright

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Reading Group Guide

1. What is Harry's motivation for writing and collecting the letters and poems? Why does he address the letters to Emily rather than to one of his own children? Why do you think he chooses to use the poems to hide passwords instead of just compiling the letters in a scrapbook?

2. The reader comes to know Harry in the first few chapters of the novel and then through his writings, and even after this death he remains a central character in the story. What was your initial perception of Harry? Did your opinion change as the story progressed?

3. Through reading Harry's book of poems and letters, Bob and Michelle come to learn about their mother, as well as about their parents' courtship and marriage. Why did Harry not tell them about their mother when they were growing up?

4. Bob has a contentious relationship with Harry, believing that Harry was not a good father and even referring to him by his first name. After Bob has read a portion of the letters and poems, Laura says to him, "'I think you're starting to understand the old man, and that bothers you'" (pg. 168). Why does this bother him? How do Bob's feelings about his father change as he discovers more about him?

5. When the novel opens, Bob and Laura's marriage is dissolving. How does their relationship change as the story progresses? What role does Harry play in their relationship both before and after his death?

6. Laura questions the cause of Harry's death, even wondering if a person can will himself to die and then delving into his medical history. What drives her to pursue this quest?

7. In one letter Harry writes, "Parents are strange and wonderful creatures....They are just people struggling to do the best they can, just the same as you are. You will feel let down, betrayed, even ashamed. This is the time, Emily, when you need to forgive your parents for being human" (pg. 165). The letter is addressed to Emily, but how does this reflect Harry's relationship with his own children and with Bob in particular?

8. Harry's book affects each of the characters that read it. How does each character change from having read Harry's writings? Which of the letters did you find the most compelling, and why?

9. In the Afterword, Camron Wright speaks of being inspired by the writings of his grandfather, Harry Wright, and makes the following statement: "I would encourage the reader to seek out the writings and letters of his or her own parents, grandparents, or other loved ones. Perhaps, in this search, hidden wisdom will be discovered as well. It may be, in reading forgotten words, in remembering their lives, their sacrifices, that their frailties will wash away, their strengths will surface, and they will be remembered fondly. It is a wish that everyone should be granted." What does he mean by this last sentence? How does this sentiment play out in Letters for Emily?

10. Do you have any letters, poems, or other writings from your own relatives? If so, how have they changed or inspired you?

11. What did you learn or gain from reading Letters for Emily?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(20)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 25, 2010

    A sweet story!

    This is a story about a grandfather who has Alzheimer's disease and some kind of a depressive disorder. He leaves his grand daughter (Emily) some letters that have clues associated with them. Emily has to open the clues and finds lots of great advice. I liked this book. It had some great advice pieces and helps you to remember what a gold mine the older generation can be. This is a sweet story, one you will remember for awhile. I read this book in four days because I couldn't put it down. You will like it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2009

    Amazing....

    This book is amazing. It flowed easily, right from the start and all the way to the end. I loved every character, you could really relate to each of them. This book is not depressing, but rather uplifting. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a life inspiring book. It'll make you look at your own life and your own actions and think of how you can be a better person to everyone around you, even strangers. I came on here to check for other books by this author and am very disappointed to not see any.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2007

    Amazing

    I could not put this book down!!! The lessons were fantastic! It really made you think and try to figure out the poems with the characters!!! A great read!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2004

    A Grandfather's Love

    Millions of elderly people are diagnosed every year with Alzheimer's disease. 'Letters For Emily,' is the story of Harry Whitney, a man who died from Alzheimer's disease. After Harry's death, his son, Bob, and wife Laura went through his belongings. They discovered letters and poems he compiled in a book for their seven year old daughter, Emily, with whom he was very close to. The best part of this story, was how author Camron Wright mixed in real events with fictional characters. His grandfather Harry S. Wright had the same disease. He also, left behind a book of poems for his children and grandchildren to forever cherish. This is one book not to be missed out on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2014

    It was okay

    To me this felt like a story that just the family would enjoy. You know when your with a group and four people are related, they tell a story and laugh there head off, but it's not that funny to you. That's what this book felt like to me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Sweet

    This book is an incredible book. I was very touched by the grandfathers love for his gran daughter. The poems are witty, and the letters give great advice.

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  • Posted July 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautiful

    I bought this book at the author's book signing in Plano, TX.
    Didn't know about him or the book but felt compelled to purchase it.
    The book was beautifully written and sweet. It definitely touches the heart. Thank you, Camron.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2006

    Very Inspirational

    This was an outstanding book!! I couldn't put it down. At one point I was crying so much I could barely read the words.Every lesson taught is easily related to your life which makes the book easy to connect with! I give it a ten and suggest it to everyone and anyone, young and old!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    Letters For Emily

    Letters For Emily is a greaet book! Camron Wright's Letters For Emily is the best book i've ever read! Emily who is seven visits her grandfather Harry every Friday. harry has Akzheimers disease. Emily's parents Bob and Laura are having Marriage problems and are begining to split up. Once Harry dies Laura finds three books full of his poems. Each poem has a code to unlock a letter to Emily on the computer. The greedy brother in law found one gold coin and now all he cares about is finding money. This is a great book with a shocking ending! I recommend it to anyone and everyone! It's a great family book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    Letters for Emily

    The book Letters for Emily is a sweet tear-jerking book which is sure to touch your heart. A nice change from typical love stories this book is about a grandfather named Harry who has Alzeimers disese. When he is not being affected by the disease he write letters to his innocent,smart granddaughter named Emily containing hidden messages, tresures and lessons. Harry's son Bob doesn't have a good rrelationship with his father. He recently seperated tfrom his wife Laura. Throughout the book he connects with his father throgh the letters that tell stories about Harry's childhood, his first love, who happens to be his mother who died when he was jut a kid. Through these lettters meant for Emily, harry being as clever as he is, helps everyone around Emily including laura, emily mother, who struggling with her divorce with Bob and keeping a smiling face for her daugther. Laura faces both huge and small chalenges l=some as simple as picking emily up from school on time. You will be engulfed in the characters worlds as you feel for each character and see the world through both Bob and Lauras eyes. this book is perfect for anyone who loves books that you just can't put down! I would recommend it to anyone and everyone!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2004

    Laugh, Cry, Mourn, and Celebrate...This book has it all!

    I can't remember reading a book that touched my every emotion as 'Letters for Emily' has. I think everyone will be able to relate to this story, one just never knows when the last time you will see a loved one will be. This book reminds us all that we should say 'I love you', more often.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2003

    A book for everyone especially parents to read to their children

    This was one of the most amazing and thoughtful books I have read in a very long time. It not only gives you choices but ever so carefully leads you in the right direction. I put it right up there with Tuesdays with Morrie. These are 2 books that should be read by every single person regardless of age or sex. It is truly about learning life and how to live it to it fullest, and to enjoy life at it best. It is helpful and dlightful for all ages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2003

    It touched my soul...

    This is a remarkable book. My wonderful grandmother suffers with Alzheimer's. She wrote her daily prayers and thanksgivings out for many years before becoming ill. We knew we had a piece of her heart but now, after reading this book, I will cherish them even more. Letters for Emily is perfection.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Very inspiring tale

    Though he knows he is dying that does not disturb Harry Whitney. However, Alzheimer's bothers him because he realizes how much the disease has changed him from Grandpa Harry to an old cranky geezer complaining about everything. Harry has several grandchildren, but his favorite is Emily, who visits him every week.<P> When Harry dies, his daughter-in-law Laura, finds three homemade books filled with his poems and stories. Together with her daughter Emily, who mourns the most over the loss of her best friend, they read Harry¿s poetry and stories, realizing that each contain a coded password that opens a related computer file. Inside the files are special notes to Harry¿s beloved Emily to help her in life. Other family members soon read Emily¿s treasure that reminds them how remarkable Harry had been as a person, father, husband, and grandfather before Alzheimer¿s destroyed his mind and body.<P> This inspirational family drama will leave the audience crying for joy and out of sadness. Harry in life and death is quite a protagonist as his wisdom passes down to Emily and others. When the tale focuses on Harry directly or indirectly (the sandwich generation struggling on what is the right thing to do with their father) or on Emily¿s child-like but mature understanding of him, the book is incredible. When the tale centers on the breakup of marriages amidst Harry¿s children, it adds depth yet too much angst that weighs down the reader a bit. Still LETTERS FOR EMILY is a powerful and insightful look at the individual members of a family.<P> Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2002

    Letters

    As a young woman I thouroughly enjoyed this book....it showed me so many more aspects to the elderly in my community and I have a new respect for my grandfather that I might not have had save for this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2002

    Wonderful!

    This book should be read by every parent to their child(ren). It teaches so many wonderful lessons and inparts age-old wisdom that never goes out of style. What a lovely way to pass on vitues and morals to your child. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2002

    Amazing!

    This book was absolutely spectacular!!! I found myself laughing, crying; it was a beautiful piece!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2002

    Couldn't put it down!

    This was an excellent book, especially if you like to read for pleasure, yet learn or be reminded of the importance of values in your life at the same time. I read it in less than a week, falling asleep on it every night and reading before work in the morning when I probably should have been doing other things. This is a 'feel good' book full of hope and encouragement and very light, easy reading for any age. Great escape!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2002

    Truly AMAZING!!

    I laughed and I cried, and then as it ended I smiled because Camron Wright has managed to touch my soul through this masterful work of literature. A mixture of poetry and prose, 'Letters For Emily' is a novel that will have you looking at what is really important in life. One of the BEST books that I have ever read!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2002

    THE BEST I'VE EVER READ!!

    This is an amazing story that teaches the reader so much about life. Through passionate poems and beautifully written letters, Grandpa Harry bridges the gap between an old man and a little girl. Afterall, many of the things we encounter in life are the same. I HIGHLY reccomend this to everyone. This author is full of potential!

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