The Noel Letters

October 28, 2020


The Noel Letters
By: Richard Paul Evans

After nearly two decades, Noel Post, an editor for a major New York publishing house, returns to her childhood home in Salt Lake City to see her estranged, dying father. What she believed would be a brief visit turns into something more as she inherits the bookstore her father fought to keep alive. Reeling from loneliness, a recent divorce, and unanticipated upheavals in her world, Noel begins receiving letters from an anonymous source, each one containing thoughts and lessons about her life and her future. She begins to reacquaint herself with the bookstore and the people she left behind, and in doing so, starts to unravel the reality of her painful childhood and the truth about her family. As the holidays draw near, she receives a Christmastime revelation that changes not only how she sees the past but also how she views her future.

I've had a long standing tradition of reading each Christmas book Richard Paul Evans puts out. I eagerly await its release so I can get (usually) get lost in a story I don't want to put down. Some books have been better than others, and some have left a more lasting impression, but I still look forward to this Christmas tradition every year. 

This year's release, The Noel Letters, was no exception. The plot sounded right up my alley. And while I think it's a good book, it wasn't as good as I was hoping. Usually, Mr. Evans' books encompass more of the Christmas spirit in terms of the emotions they bring out. This one didn't do that. The Noel Letters was about the long term effects of harboring a grudge. You can see why Noel distanced herself from her father. You can easily see why she felt the way she did. You can relate to the confusion she encounters when she arrives home to everyone singing his praises. How was this man the same man at the root of her pain? There is a heaviness of the heart as you read the pages of this book. How was it able to get as bad as it did? How was the distance and misunderstandings able to last as long as they did?

The letters Noel begins receiving weren't as impactful as I thought they would be. Rather, they were random nuggets of advice that you later learn are connected. Not to say the words written weren't wise, but you didn't always see the connection between them and Noel. Finding out who was behind them and involved with them was more impactful. Once you have this background information on the letters, you see them in a different light. 

The supporting characters were both fascinating and confusing. Grace, I loved and wanted to learn more about. I loved her character. You just knew there was more to her involvement than just a friend of Noel's Dad. Your heart breaks to learn of her story, then it overflows with amazement when you see what she does with the circumstances. You aren't surprised to learn they were close friends, but shocked to see how the friendship came to be. I have to say, she was my favorite of the characters. I could just sit with her all day and gleam life lessons and wisdom from her.

Wendy, the coworker with her father in his bookstore, was a character I couldn't make sense of. You knew they were connected as she worked side by side, for years, with him. She was his righthand man in the business operations, as well as some of his personal life. Both she and Grace were the ones to care for him all the years Noel wasn't there- especially during his illness and death. There was a mourning with a touch of bitterness you meet right away, but can't quite figure out. I have to say the revelation of Noel's Father and Wendy was a surprise I didn't see coming. It was one I couldn't really understand. You aren't there to watch it unfold, so it's hard to imagine.

Overall, I'm glad I read the book. It was a story that tackles a darker set of feelings and emotions that can exist during the holidays. Grudges can bring damage that takes years to heal, if you let them. This book is a reminder of there always being two sides to every story, but being willing to learn both sides is key. Forgiveness was the center point of the story. Forgiveness from both sides. I felt much of the emotions Noel felt within the pages. I understood them. I cried a few tears and points. It's a good read, but not one that I think I would read again. 


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