When Iris dies of terminal cancer, aged 33, her friend and colleague Smith is left adrift without her. 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 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’ sister Jade. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.
More often than not, death is viewed as an ending rather than a beginning—but that is not the case in Mary Adkins’ delightful debut novel, When You Read This, in which a young woman’s death proves to be the catalyst for a compassionate and heartwarming love story ... An epistolary novel for the 21st century, When You Read This sparkles with a perfect blend of humor, pathos and romance. At times painfully sad, the novel balances Jade and Smith’s anguish so that it is palpable but never overwrought, and moments of levity and whimsy keep the tale from becoming maudlin or cloyingly sentimental. Adkins has managed to paint an authentic and nuanced portrait of grief and the various ways people attempt to cope and continue on with life when the worst has happened. Inventive and irresistible, When You Read This is a tender and uplifting story about love, loss and the resilience of the human heart that will have you laughing and crying in equal turns.
Adkins’ heartfelt page-turner unfolds through emails ... Though Iris’ death is the heart of her debut, Adkins keeps an overall lighthearted tone; hilariously hair-pulling emails from Carl and comments on Iris’ blog provide frequent comic relief. A natural read-alike for Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette...and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments.
A vibrant epistolary collage with pieces of satire, romance, and family drama overlapping ... The charming quality of Jade and Smith’s developing relationship—both combative and empathetic—is anchored by their grief and by sections from Iris’ blog, which is strikingly self-aware and sometimes breathtakingly poignant, especially the sentiments rendered in charts and graphs. The book moves with the entertaining swiftness and abrupt tonal shifts of communication in the digital age, with particular thanks to Carl, the intern Smith hires following Iris’ death: a millennial ex machina who juices up the plot with perfect self-importance and -absorption. But thanks to Adkins, even Carl has a (hint of) compelling backstory and a delightful arc. An excellent story that's condensed into a great example of the epistolary format: something that’s thrilling to expand and decode while reading.