Originally published April 2019
Sometimes, the best kind of time is forced down time.
A wee family emergency over the weekend spun up into three days of back and forth between home and hospital (Everyone’s just fine, thank you) and while working remotely is and was doable, there are places where a book is just better than a laptop.
I usually have a few library books on my bedside table — titles that I think look promising and of which I haven’t seen or heard buzz. With little time to be choosy, I grabbed Mary Adkins’ “When You Read This” — figuring if it grabbed me in the first couple of chapters I’d have something that would help me stay awake in the middle of the night in the ER. (Because that’s really not the place you want to fall asleep if you are not the patient.)
Did “When You Read This” deliver? I just finished it and muttered, “That was great …” while wiping away tears. So you tell me.
Adkins’ tale told in a series of emails, texts and blog entries tugs at the heartstrings of any hopeless romantic that craves a happy ending to a sad story. In this case, readers are treated to a peek inside the lives of Smith Simonyl, Iris Massey and her sister Jade. It’s no spoiler to explain Iris is dead. At 33. From cancer. (That’s the sad story.) Smith, Iris’ boss, is struggling to make sense of the loss, as is Jade. When Smith discovers Iris’ cancer blog with a note asking him to get it published, he connects with Jade and the love story takes off from there.
“When You Read This” is at its core a love story. At least for me it was. But there are so many beautiful layers to it — grief, rivalry, guilt and pain, yes. But also wit, charm and humor.
The back-and-forth between Jade and Smith is engaging and will suck you right into the story. As does the banter between Smith and his intern, the hilariously thinks-he-is-a-self-aware-genius-but-is-a-pretentious-ignoramus Carl. That guy is the embodiment of every intern you’ve ever held in contempt and keeps you from putting the book down until you finish it. The ending for Carl? Didn’t see it coming and laughed out loud. Perfection.
And Iris? One of the best endings to a blog I might ever read. So beautiful. And yes, pictures do make it better. (You’ll have to read the book to understand the reference. Completely worth it.)
Because the story’s construction is around electronic communication, I can promise you that it’s the fastest 375-page book you’ll ever read. It’s thoroughly entertaining and, as I mentioned earlier, has the propensity to leave you a little weepy. Maybe even a lot weepy. But all the better for having read it.