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Letters for Emily

Letters for Emily

4.5 30
by Camron Wright

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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 beloved


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 beloved 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. Are they the ramblings of a man losing touch with reality? Or has Harry given them a gift more valuable than any one of them could have guessed?

A memorable tale of the power of love and family, Letters for Emily is a novel sure to enrich readers of all generations.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Herald
Wright's book is an advice-laced heartwarmer in the tradition of Mitch Albom's popularTuesdays with Morrie.
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.

Product Details

Pocket Star
Publication date:
Edition description:
Simon & Schuster
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 4.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


Laura and Emily awoke early and headed to Harry's house before school. The house was still empty, but somehow it didn't feel as lonely this morning. They clicked on the light and trotted over to the computer to turn it on. The antiquated machine whirred for several minutes as the operating system loaded. Laura waited patiently until Windows flashed onto the screen.

"What you looking for, Mom?" Emily quizzed.

"I'm not sure, let's find out."

She scanned the hard drive for files, and sure enough, there was a folder called "Letters for Emily." She opened it, revealing the contents. Twenty-six files, each numbered consecutively, listed on the screen. They appeared to coincide with the table of contents in Harry's book -- each poem, puzzle, or story having a number from one to twenty-six. She clicked on the first and waited for it to open. As she did, a small box requesting a password popped onto the screen.

"Perhaps the crazy old man wasn't so crazy after all," she whispered. Cautiously, she typed in the letters tfa and hit Enter. "Incorrect Password -- Please Try Again." Confused, she opened the book and looked again at the words.

"E-m-i-l-y t-h-e p-a-s-s-w-o-r-d i-s..."

"Wait, I know." This time she typed in "time forever after" just as it was written in the poem, and then hit the Enter key once more. After the hard drive whirred again, the file opened before her on the screen.

"Yes!" she exclaimed, giving Emily a quick squeeze.

"What is it?"

"It looks like Grandpa wrote you a letter. Listen, I'll read it to you."

Dearest Emily,

You found the secret of the first poem. I knew you would, you're a smart girl!

As you may have guessed by now, each poem or story in my book has its own secret for you to discover. If you look hard, you will find each contains a password that will lead you back here to my letters.

I have done this for two reasons. First, I want to teach you that in life, the solutions to problems are not always clear. Often, you will need to look beneath the surface to find your answers.

The second reason is a more practical one that has to do with my condition. I fear as my symptoms worsen, I may accidentally delete or alter my work. The passwords help protect me from myself.

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. I do know that I want you to have a better life than I have had. I want you to learn from the many mistakes I've made. Learn from the good times and the not-so-good times. For you see, this journey is a test and many of the problems that I have faced, you will face. Life has a strange way of repeating itself and I want my experience to help you. I want to make a difference.

My hope is that you'll consider my words and remember my heart. If you're helped even once, then my prayers will have been answered. Much of what I say may not make sense right away, but as you grow, perhaps it will be appreciated. Remember me for my words and my heart. Please forget the times I made you angry or sad. It is a wish that everyone should be granted.

My book of poems and these letters are my gift to you. I hope they bring you joy. I hope that as you read them, you will think of me, because I will be thinking of you.


Grandpa Harry

"That sly son of a..." Looking at Emily, she concluded with gun. "That sly son of a gun."

"He wrote me a letter!" Emily was thrilled.

"He sure did, babe. He wants to tell you how smart and wonderful you are."

"Are there more?"

"There are, but we have to find his secrets first. Sit down and I'll show you."

Sitting on the couch, Laura explained how the password Emily discovered was hidden in the poem; how every poem had one, and as they discovered each one, they could read more of Grandpa's letters.

"Can we show my letter to Dad?" Emily wondered.

"Absolutely." Walking to the computer, Laura clicked on the printer icon and waited for the page to drop from the printer. Once it had, she exited Windows and turned off the machine. She could copy the files, but not knowing what else might be hidden on Harry's hard drive, it seemed best to take the whole thing home.

As Laura moved behind the desk to unplug the monitor and printer cables, a cracking sounded beneath her feet. She jumped back and saw a small plastic prescription bottle in pieces on the carpet where she'd stood. Picking up the shattered container, she scanned the label. The doctor's name and address were different from that of the clinic she had visited on Highland Drive, yet the prescription had been filled recently. Peculiar. Emily was already late for school, so Laura pulled off the broken pieces of plastic and dropped the label into her purse. It took three trips, but after the computer was safely loaded in the car, she scooted Emily outside and locked the door.

Laura dropped Emily off at school and rushed to an appointment with a buyer. It was just after noon when she arrived home. The answering machine showed eight messages, seven of which were from Bob. Rather than returning his calls, Laura studied Harry's book while waiting for the phone to ring again. It didn't take long.

"Hello?" she answered slowly.

"Did you find something?"

"You should say hello first, Bob."

"Hello, did you find something?"

"Yes, we did." She paused, waiting for his response.

"What? You want me to beg?"

This was better than calling him at midnight, Laura thought. "Just like I guessed. He has a file on his computer for each of his poems. The password Emily found opened the first file."

Bob interrupted, "Emily found it?"

"You have a very smart daughter."

"You're right about that. So, what does the file say?"

"Is your fax machine on? I'll just fax it to you. Oh, there is one other thing."


"I found an empty bottle of pills at your dad's, but they're not from the clinic he normally went to."


"Don't you find that strange?"

"I don't know. It's probably an old bottle."

"It's not."

"You're beating a dead horse to death, Laura -- excuse the pun."

"Don't you want to know all the answers?"

"Answers to what? That he was sick and died?"

"I know that Bob, but there's more going on here than just that. I can feel it. Wait until you read his letter."

"Will anything I say stop you from looking?"

The answer was simple. "Not until I find what I'm looking for."

"When you find Jimmy Hoffa, will you let me know?" She ignored his retort. He continued, "You'll fax the letter right now?"

"Only if you hang up the phone, Bob."

She wanted to wait. Instead she walked to the fax machine in the bedroom, slipped in the paper, and dialed his number. After she had finished, she rifled through her purse and extracted the label from the prescription bottle. It was new. It made her angry that Bob wouldn't even listen. She scribbled the date of the prescription and the name of the drug on a piece of paper and circled the date boldly. Underneath she wrote just two words. "It's new!" She placed the sheet into the machine and faxed it to him as well.

After the fax finished, she picked up the phone and dialed the number of the pharmacy printed on the label. The pharmacist was polite and located the record quickly. The original prescription had been filled six years ago. It had been renewed a year and a half ago and had been written with five refills, the maximum allowed. The last one had been mailed out seven months earlier. For further questions, he recommended she call the doctor directly and gave her the number. The phone rang only once.

"Riley Medical, may I help you." To Laura's relief, the receptionist at this place sounded civil.

"Yes, is Dr. Jensen available, please?"

"He's just finishing up with a patient. May I have him return your call in a moment?"

"Yes, please. It's concerning my father-in-law, a patient of his, Harry Whitney."

"Did you say Harry?"


"Then he's a man?"

"Of course he's a man. I said he was my father-in-law."

"I'm sorry, Dr. Jensen is a gynecologist. You must be looking for Rodney Jensen, his father."

"That could be. The label just has an initial before the last name. Does he work there? Could I speak to him please?" There was no answer. "Hello? Could I speak to him please?"

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but Dr. Rodney Jensen passed away just over a year ago."

"What?" She was confused. "I'm sorry. I didn't know." She was about to hang up when an idea struck. "Could I speak to his son, as soon as he's free?"

"Certainly. Just a moment, please."

While she waited for the doctor, she stared again at the date on the tiny label she held in her hand.

Copyright © 2001 by Camron Wright

What People are Saying About This

Mary Higgins Clark
Clever, heartwarming, and heartfelt, Letters for Emily is a novel every member of the family should read. I love it!
Amanda Dickson
I absolutely loved it! Telling the story through the poems, the passwords, and the letters was enthralling, wonderful, and unique. A warm, inspirational story, which leaves you feeling more grateful for love and family. Chills. Tears. Fabulous!
Richard Paul Evans
An exceptional story, gleaming with goodness and hope.
James Michael Pratt
Love, compassion, and forgiveness find a home inLetters For Emily.

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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Letters for Emily 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookworm2110 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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fransmom More than 1 year ago
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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

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.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.