By: Mary Adkins
Published Year: 2019
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Iris Massey is gone.
But she’s left something behind.
For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.
Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.
Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss.
What I thought
This is an epistolary novel about a 33-year old woman who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and how her boss and sister get along after she has died. The book is told through old blog posts that Iris wrote as she was dying, emails between Smith (Iris’ boss) and Jade (Iris’ sister) and a few other various emails.
Smith’s assistant finds a copy of Iris’ death blog printed out with a hand written note on it asking Smith to publish it after she dies, so he is dealing with that in addition to dealing with her death.
Now, I love epistolary novels. Almost as much as I love saying the word “epistolary”. My love for them was sparked by Meg Cabot’s novel, Every Boy’s Got One. Since then, I have held every novel of this type to the standards of that one. Cabot wrote an amazing novel that allowed me to fall in love with multiple characters as well as see and related to a romance.
Unfortunately, this novel did not reach my standards. While it was entertaining enough to be a quick 24-hour read, I didn’t like any of the characters. I found everyone to be self-centered with little to no redeeming qualities. There was sort of a romance between Smith and Jade, which was just as flat as it was predictable.
I did enjoy Iris’ blog posts. They found a good balance between tragic, insightful, and light. I actually liked seeing Smith and Jade through Iris’ blog a lot more than through their emails. I just felt like I couldn’t connect to anyone, and if you can’t connect to people through their personal emails and therapy reports, then how are you ever going to connect to them?
What Book Club Thought
Everyone was all over the place with this one. We had one person who enjoyed it, another who disliked it, and then I was kind of in the middle. The interesting discussion that we had was regarding the tone of the novel and whether or not it would’ve been better as a typical novel instead of told through emails. It sparked some conversation about the back and forth between the seriousness of Iris’s death and the sillier tone of Carl the assistant, which led to talking about truly how much happened in this book. We ultimately decided that we felt like there was a lot that happened and a lot of heavier topics that just didn’t get the attention they deserved due in part to the writing style but also that amount that was going on. Another interesting point that was brought up was whether or not we felt like Iris’s blog actually deserved to be published or would have made a good book.
Overall, even though I wasn’t crazy about this book, it made for some interesting discussion, so I ended up enjoying it as a book club pick.