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Title: Letter from a Stranger Author: Barbara Taylor Bradford Publisher: St, Martin’s ISBN: 978-0312631697 My Rating: 1 Star

Do. Not. Waste. Your. Time.

I’ve wanted to give Barbara Taylor Bradford a try for a while now because she comes highly recommended and she’s written like 82,000 books. But she fell short with this one.

The premise is good: woman gets a letter revealing her beloved grandmother didn’t die like she was told ten years ago, but may be dying now, so said woman ups and heads to Turkey to find her. She discovers secrets about her family in the process and meets strapping young man.

If only Ms. Bradford developed her characters. If only she used active verbs. The prose was so dull throughout, even when the story started picking up, that I was incredibly bored the whole time. If only Ms. Bradford had characters who claim they profess faith in God actually live their lives according to His teachings instead of sleeping with a guy they met last week (literally). If only motivations and the whole reason for the separation made any sense at all.

The big secret didn’t turn out to be that big of a secret. The main character’s grandmother, Gabri, spends the whole book estranged from family because her daughter, Deborah, doesn’t want Gabri near her kids. Justine (main character and Gabri’s granddaughter) asks Gabri what the reason is. Gabri’s reason for not telling is “it’s too painful, I can’t talk about it.” At first I thought that meant she mentally blocked everything from her memory. But, no it meant that she just didn’t want to talk about it. Justine learns everything through Gabri’s diary. Turns out Gabri is Jewish and fled the Nazis during the war. Very sad story, but written in such a dull fashion that I had difficulty connecting with the struggle (how sad is that?). She hid her Jewishness from her husband in order to escape Berlin and never told her daughter. But even from the beginning, it was not really a surprise because she named her daughter Deborah, a traditionally Jewish name. Deborah learns the truth and cuts her mother off from her family because… Gabri is a Jew.

Yes, that’s the only reason. I know incredible anti-Semitism exists, but I didn’t think it was strong enough motivations for a daughter to turn so completely against her mother. Especially because Deborah is seldom present in the book, all readers really hear about her is second-hand info and other characters’ opinions, so we don’t get a chance to know what her character is like. We don’t see any reason why she harbors such hatred, other than her father was a bit of a bigot. There is no bad experience with a Jewish person, she didn’t lose anything during the war, there’s nothing. I just thought the whole idea too weak.

No one learned anything. No one changed. And it really annoyed me that  people kept saying “God meant for us to be here” and then turing around and either having sex outside of marriage or encouraging it. And i really, really, really couldn’t get beyond the writing that plain bored me to tears. I wish I had better things to day, but alas… Maybe Ms. Bradford’s earlier books are better. Anyone have opinions?

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