Book Review: A Letter From Sarah by Dan Proops


A novel that not only intrigues you with its plot, but also delves deep into issues surrounding grief, loss and mental health” 

Seven years ago, Adam’s sister, Sarah, went missing, but he hasn’t given up hope of finding her. He is a sculptor and lives with his bedridden father who is bad-tempered and a bully. One morning, as the anniversary of Sarah’s disappearance approaches, Adam receives a letter from her; she is apparently alive and well, living in New York. Desperate for answers and the truth, Adam travels to Brooklyn in the hope of seeing her, but she seems determined to avoid him. Sarah’s letters arrive weekly, yet she continues to remain elusive. Adam is perplexed by Sarah’s requests for secrecy, as is his father and girlfriend, Cassandra. Adam is determined to find her, whatever the cost to his wellbeing, health and sanity.  

The plot of this novel was very intriguing; I was constantly wondering if Sarah was really alive and if so, when Adam would be able to see her. What I liked about this novel so much was that it went beyond a novel designed to thrill you as it explores the issues of grief and loss, which many people can identify with for different reasons. Whether you’ve experienced grief and loss or not, you cannot help but put yourself in Adam’s situation; you imagine how impossibly difficult every day is as you ask the question to which there is no certain answer: what happened to Sarah? The revelation in the closing chapters of the novel shocked me as I did not see it coming at all. 

The first letter from Sarah offers a hopeful scenario of receiving communication from a person who has been missing. Even when a desperate situation such as this occurs, you would not want to believe that the worst had happened and you would always try to be positive and optimistic that the missing individual had not come to any harm. 

I liked the examination of sanity in connection to grief and loss as Adam begins to question his visions and dreams. As you imagine yourself as Adam, you begin to play out different eventualities of what happened to Sarah in your mind, and it must be extremely worrying and exhausting having your mind constantly working and playing tricks on you. It becomes increasingly hard for Adam to differentiate between reality and fiction, and that is perhaps what is most frightening of all in the depths of despair and grief. 

Proops does a magnificent job in manipulating his reader’s feelings towards Nigel. After Adam’s act of kindness towards him, the way Nigel displays his gratitude is truly awful. I quickly found myself detesting him and I think that shows Proops’ skill as a writer: to make a reader respond so strongly to a character. Darius is interesting in terms of how I responded to him, because whilst he is sometimes nasty and cantankerous towards Adam, you understand his own grief over his missing daughter, and therefore feel sympathetic towards him. 

My sympathy for Adam was overwhelming as I witnessed all his sorrow and grief over the ‘not knowing’ what happened to Sarah. As someone who has a sibling, and a strong bond with that sibling, I found it very moving to watch Adam as he struggled with everyday life. Furthermore, I think that the novel accurately mimics life in terms of how good and bad events happen to ordinary people. Just when something positive happens in Adam’s life, some bad news comes his way, making his character universal for anyone to connect and identify with. 

Overall, A Letter From Sarah is a novel that not only intrigues and thrills you with its plot, but also delves deep into issues surrounding grief, loss and mental health.  With a sympathetic protagonist, this is a book that you will race through but it will remain with you after you have finished it. 

Rating: 5/5 

A Letter From Sarah will be released in paperback and Kindle editions on 7th March 2019.  

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