Review: 53 Letters For My Lover by Leylah Attar

This is not your typical love story. 
It’s not so black and white. Lines are crossed. 
Walls are smashed. Good becomes bad. 
Bad becomes very, very good.

I've been talking about The Paper Swan for over a month now, a book that completely knocked me on my ass and gave me one of the most severe books hangovers I've had in a long time. I tried the usual tricks to move on: something completely different, old favorites, non-fiction, pure smut. Nothing worked. Finally I picked up Leylah Attar's first novel, 53 Letters For My Lover, and that did it! I was finally able to let go and move on.

I had originally avoided this one, thinking it couldn't possibly stack up to Paper Swan and I wanted to preserve my awe for a little while longer. I also wasn't keen on the main plot of the story, but being unable to let go, I finally picked up 53 Letters and was surprised at how it swept me away.

Come with me through the jump and I'll tell you about 53 Letters For My Lover, and why I will now read anything that Leylah Attar decides to share with us. 



How did she DO that?!?
I have to start with the acknowledgment that in real life I detest what this book is based on: cheating. It's a love story, yes, but it's a love story based on lies and deception, and when real people are involved, I have very little patience for that shit. And yet, somehow, Leylah Attar made me love the cheaters. I understand. I see why they did it, how they did it. I don't blame them. I was rooting for them. For me, that is a mark of a truly gifted writer--to make me understand and sympathize with something I abhor. I'm still awed. 

I'm not crying! You're crying. 
53 Letters started almost gently, letting us into Shayda's world, into her head, following her through her life that she didn't choose but that she lived out of obligation. I read along, seeing the ups and downs as Shayda made her place in her new home, knowing that Troy was going to wreck her life, and suddenly I was sobbing, my heart breaking for these two people who didn't choose to be in love but who never had a chance to do it the proper way. Experiencing all of the stops and starts in their completely inappropriate relationship, every hurt, deception, and heartbreak, I found myself rapidly turning pages to see if our couple would finally make their way to one another, free and clear. 

Rock on, with your diverse self!
Leylah Attar is a revelation in a literary world where things can get a bit repetitive. Formulaic. Bland. White. Shayda, the main character, is Iranian, now settled in Toronto. I am certain that I've never read another book about an Iranian character. But the revelation part is that she's not so different from any other heroine I've ever read, with dreams of love and success and a deep love for her family and friends. Imagine that! Deep down, people really aren't that different, despite what society tends to tell us. I delight in reading about characters who are different--different from me, different from what we are shown as "normal" everywhere we look, and Leylah Attar is killing it at writing characters of color. Bravo!

The prose with which Leylah Attar spins her tales is absolutely gorgeous. I love reading these books for the stunning word pictures that she paints:
Massive blooms of pink and green exploded in rapid succession, descending in threads of sparkling silver. Spinning comets reached for the heavens, followed by a barrage of fast and furious explosions, each hanging momentarily in the sky, mirrored perfectly in the glassy reflection of the lake. And then the grand finale—an erratic cloud of red crackles with brilliant, white stars bursting all around.
As with The Paper Swan, there is a foundation of truth supporting the beautiful love story, thoughts and feelings that are applicable to each of us. 
We have an infinite capacity to love, but when you wrap up your love and give it to someone, they expect all of it. And that’s what you think too—that you’re giving them everything you’ve got. You really do. Until you realize that love is end-less, bottom-less, boundary-less. The more you give, the more gushes out. It spills over, refusing to be contained in neat little parcels, swelling like a river after a flash flood. And in the end, it doesn’t matter which part was whose, because in the end it’s all one, like streams merging into the ocean.
53 Letters For My Lover was a complete surprise for me. I wasn't expecting to love it, I wasn't really expecting it to help me let go and move on from the last Attar book. But I did love it, and it made me think enough that I was finally able to move on. I can confidently say that I am now a huge fan of Leylah Attar's work, and I can't wait to see what she awes me with next.

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