I must admit Maria Thompson Corley’s book was not a typical book that I would have chosen to read. The picture on the cover, along with its title gave me a very vague idea of what it was about. Also, I am not one for love stories- I like to focus on Historical Fiction.
However, I am now grateful I got a chance to read this fellow Albertan’s work (and I am hoping to come across another one of her works in the future!). This book is a novel composed of diary entries, letters, emails and of course, standard prose. Through the combination of these various platforms she keeps the reluctant reader (like me) engaged, and eager for more.
While some might argue that her flipping between her character’s narratives from one chapter to the next was confusing; I disagree. I think that by doing so, she could keep her book balanced between the male and the female perspective. In a way, she seems to braid the story by giving both Cecile and Langston a chance to tell their side.
Letting Go is a long-distance love story, complicated by distance, religion, race and “young love”. The protagonist, Cecile, is bound into a relationship with her “first” sexual encounter- this relationship complicates matters in her life as well as in the life of Langston, her distant friend/lover. When young girls who are raised to reserve sex for their husbands, break this rule; hormones and guilt play important roles in their decisions. Cecile gives into the temptation of having sex outside the marriage and falls for Teddy, a narcissist male. She feels a sense of guilt for doing the action but is intoxicated with the hormonal effect of the deed. She only feels a relief when they get engaged. Even when the first engagement is called off, she feels deeply connected to him and can’t move on. I would say that it is because of this guilty pleasure that she marries him despite his unfaithfulness. By marrying him, she isolates herself from her family, her country and her friends. She feels she cannot speak of her unhappiness as her family was against her decision in the beginning- nor can she divorce him due to religious beliefs.
Langston, on the other hand, is a shy young man who loves cooking and lives in the shadow of his grandmother. He fears his grandmother and sister’s disapproval. It is only after his grandmother passes away that he pursues his passion for cooking by opening a restaurant. Having met and kissed Cecile once, he is smitten. They exchange letters and phone calls through which his infatuation for her grows. Although he realizes that Cecile is in love with Teddy, he allows himself to be tormented by her teases, her witty charm and laughter. When he can’t have Cecile, he throws himself fully into his career- and though he is successful, his personal life suffers.
This is a story of two lovers destined to be together; lovers that must overcome challenges and personal fears to enjoy the present moment. It is only when they let go of their expectations, that they truly live and love.
I recommend picking up this book, if you liked Americanah or if you want to have some light reading. Corley will not disappoint you- after all, she kept a critic like me engaged, didn’t she?