Member Reviews

Letters from My Sister by Valerie Fraser Luesse - I had a hard time getting started with this book. It was a slow read throughout.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for the Advanced Reading Copy.

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I absolutely loved Letters from My Sister by Valerie Fraser Luesse. An historical novel set in rural Alabama, it features the large and rambunctious Bullock family, especially the two daughters, Callie and Emmy. The book takes place in the early years of the twentieth century — there’s some technology and medical/scientific insight, but no cell phones, automobiles, or social media to distract the characters and readers. I found the look at a large family in a small community to be refreshing. But don’t think this book doesn’t have any deep themes. The characters are left to confront loss, prejudice, identity, and purpose. The male characters add a lot to the narrative — color, wit, and some romance — but the women’s stories are the heart of this novel. The author draws on the relationships within her own family to inspire the book, but as pointed out in the afterward, Callie and Emmy and Hepsy and Lily and Tirzah are their own people. And this is what I really loved about Letters from My Sister. The characters became very real to me. That’s probably why I didn’t want to let them go as I read the last page. I rejoiced as Callie grew, I mourned with the family’s losses, I was angry when evil men seemed to get their way. and I was relieved as justice prevailed. There is also a spiritual element that is very special. It may not be conventional for the modern reader, but it points to a God who sees and is active in our lives.

Letters from My Sister does not begin with a bang. Its slow pace fits the story — it fit my reading mood and took its time to touch my heart. The only negative is that the story had an ending. 😉 My book club is discussing this book later in the month. I sure am glad, because this book just begs to be talked about.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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A Luesse novel is like a luxurious chocolate--you have to experience it slowly in order to truly appreciate it's richness.

With that being said . . . although I enjoyed getting to know the characters in the first half of the novel, the story didn't truly take off until the second half. The characters intrigued me enough to stay for the story, but I didn't truly feel invested until halfway through.

Once I was in, though, it was a wild and emotional ride. My heart hurt so many times for so many different situations, but there was redemption for all of the sadness in the end. Above all, Callie + Solomon 4 life. 💛 I was a HUGE fan of their development. I love them so much!

Overall, fans of character-driven storylines and rich storytelling will surely find love in their heart for this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. All expressed opinions belong to me.

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"Ever' generation got power to do better. Ever' chile bring hope. That what Almighty showed me. Make me His deliverer. Let me deliver hope."

After reading Letters From My Sister, all I can say is wow. It truly illustrates how one event can ripple and affect everyone even remotely involved. There was just something about this story and this family that captured my attention and my heart and would not let go. I loved how each child in the family was accepted for who they really were, and not expected to just fall in line with who society expected them to be. And, they truly loved everyone until given a reason not to. They didn't hesitate to "circle the wagons" and protect those in need of protection. I could truly feel Emmy's frustration at how hazy her memory is and how nothing is really adding up. I related to her so much in both wanting to remember and dreading what she may remember when she does. This family and Lily's went through so much and had to make some truly impossible choices. There were so many twists and turns to keep Lilly and her baby safe and out of the hands of those who would do them harm, and those who would turn the other way. The mystery managed to keep my mind guessing to the point where I had to stay up to finish and get answers. I have to admit that it was truly refreshing to read a book based in the historical south that didn't seen to just want to make the entire time period and everyone living there to be the bad guy. The romance aspect of the story was both sweet and innocent, I loved that Emmy found love for exactly who she was. There were heartbreaking aspects, as well. This story truly was an emotional roller coaster. This was the first book by this particular author that I've read but it will definitely not be the last.

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I struggled getting into this book. Slower placed but seemed to have many positive reviews.

I received a complimentary copy of this book and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine.

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Letters from My Sister by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Callie and Emmy are as close as sisters can be, growing up on their well-to-do farm in the South. Like many families, theirs undergoes many heartbreaking incidents. The letters in the title are between the two sisters as they are separated due to illness.

This book contains a sweet love story and some mysteries which take place after the Civil War. I was surprised at the sad turn of events but appreciated the author’s writing style.

The author includes some interesting characters. I was intrigued by Tirzah and Ura’s ability to “see” things. But my favorite character was Callie with her free spirit.

Although the mystery is solved, it had never really gripped me. I enjoyed the development of the characters more than the plot.

I am grateful to the publisher for a complimentary copy in return for this, my honest review.

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Expertly plotted, this story of family, will have readers feeling a roller-coaster of emotions. Having recently discovered southern fiction, I found this story set against the atmospheric backdrop of Alabama in the early 1900's utterly delightful. The story started off slow, but I love it when a story unfolds into something beautiful and sticks with me when I have to set it down.

With sharply etched characters, readers will fall in love with the Bullock family, Tirzah, Hepsby and Solomon. I loved Solomon's loyalty as he embraced the entire family. Callie is a strong heroine, looking for more than the traditional role that had been established for southern women in her time.

The author delves into the issues of prejudice and bigotry in a period when the lines of relationships between black and white are changing. With an engaging mystery and sweet romance, it is the story of family and sisterly love that will be remembered, long after the last page has been read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher thorough Netgalley and was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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I can't imagine what it was like to live in the historic times of this book. There was so much going on in the storyline with these sisters and their relationships with each other, the "slaves" that worked in their home, the neighbors, illnesses and crimes. This is an intriguing story of these girls and what they went through and how they had to deal with it as ladies.

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This book review was a bit tough to write. I loved the author's writing style and she's very talented in the storytelling department, but bits of the content in some of her books tend to be risque. So that spoils things quickly.

In this book the character is hot, so they decide to go skinny dipping at night. 😳😖 I mean, really!?! And this is after there's a predatory/harassing married male going about the community hitting up on random women? So stupid and just plain indecent.

The other thing was a mention of a book similar to the Odyssey and the sisters being allowed to read tales including that of the "sensuous Aphrodite" a false goddess of fertility, war and romance.

Then there's the element of racism and slavery that I could have done without.

This book had a lot of promise- a great setting, a nice family, and historical elements, but the negative content ruined my enjoyment of this book.

So, if I was looking to buy a book, sad to say, I would pass on this one.

Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary e-book I received to review through Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review, and the thoughts above are my own.

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A story set in Alabama, 1911, of two sisters, as different as possibly can be but the very best of friends. This story will tug at your heartstrings, showing you love, heartbreak and grief but also showing hope and healing.
Thank you to Amanda Cox for as awesomely written story and to Revell publishing for allowing me this e-arc version in exchange for my honest opinion.

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"You goin' need strength. You goin' need courage. Some questions got hard answers. Bring no comfort. Only pain. But Almighty say truth make you free. You seek truth. That good. But you goin' pay a price for y' freedom."
- Valerie Fraser Luesse, Letters from My Sister

The stunning cover of Letters from My Sister by Valerie Fraser Luesse stopped me in my tracks, and the story it contains is equally compelling. It was inspired by the author's maternal grandmother and the important relationships in her life.

In 1911 Alabama, sisters Emmy and Callie Bullock have a close bond in their family of many brothers. As Emmy prepares to marry her true love, Callie's unsure how her future will unfold. A guest to the Bullock farm and the nefarious actions of another launch a series of events that result in separation, grief, and unanswered questions, and one sister questions the acts of the other. Will she have the strength to seek answers?

This novel has it all - history, mystery, family drama, romance, faith, and a strong sense of Southern atmosphere. This complex plot unspools slowly, and readers experience a broad range of emotions on the journey. I was fully immersed in its time and place although I expected letters to be a larger component of the plot. Ms. Luesse continues to be one of my go-to authors for Southern historical fiction.

In a podcast interview, I learned that the (white) author took great care in creating a key Black character, using a sensitivity reader to ensure the writing was respectful. I appreciated this as racism and the impacts of slavery are part of the story.

Thank you to Revell and NetGalley for the review copy of this novel.

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I had a hard time getting into this read; it's a pretty slow burn, which can have its perks for sure--just wasn't what I expected.

I also felt the title was a misnomer; the letters really didn't play enough of a role (imho) to merit being the title, especially as they didn't show up until well into the read. As another reviewer noted, as well, visions/seers play a positively-presented role in the book; I had mixed feelings about that in a ChristFic read--hadn't seen that before.

So - it was all right, but not really my cup of tea.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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First sentence: Callie Bullock traced an imaginary circle on the windowpane, framing a cluster of ladies in their picnic dresses--swirls of fine cotton in shades of spring.

I am conflicted about Valerie Fraser Luesse's Letters From My Sister. But I'll circle back around to that....

Callie Bullock love, love, loves her sister, Emmy, though the two sisters are incredibly different. Some drama surrounds the family in this one, however, after Lily McGee (a young, beautiful black widowed woman returns to Alabama pregnant. Some men have cartoon-like lusty reactions to seeing her. So much so that the Bullock family--along with her own grandmother/great-grandmother--decide to "hide" her in plain sight. She'll remain with the family and enter into their protection. But some neighbors just can't take a hint. There is a villainous family in the neighborhood--and the one saint in the family happens to be engaged to Emmy. (He literally has an evil twin.)

One night...things are set in motion. Readers remain clueless to the events of this fateful night as readers are 'trapped' with Callie's amnesia, knowing what she knows. I will NOT spoil anything from this point on.

What I liked: I did enjoy, for the most part, the romance between Callie and Solomon. Their relationship was sweetly developed. Both were fully developed characters. Neither was perfect. They had good communication. There was never a self-sabotaging moment (or two) where the characters are so endlessly stupid and getting in their own way. It was quite a relief.

It had some drama, no lie, but it didn't seem horribly melodramatic all things considered. Like the events considered in context of their time--it seemed relatively realistic. But do expect SADNESS.

What I didn't like: I personally did not like the inclusion of psychics or seers. And these were presented in a positive, affirming way. These 'seers' with 'second sight' or 'prophetic visions' may not bother other readers. But the depiction of psychics as being blessings from God and tools of the Holy Spirit, well, it didn't sit quite right with me. Personally.

I also didn't like going through 70 percent of the book without a date--YEAR--given. I know it's historical. I could detect after the first few chapters that it was post-Civil War. But I spent SO MUCH TIME trying to puzzle out what decade, what year this was supposed to be. It wasn't until the heroine was asked her birth year and then volunteers when her next birthday will be--giving a year--that I find out.

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I loved this hauntingly beautiful historical fiction novel filled with happiness and sadness. I loved the underlying mystery that almost rips a family apart. I loved that this depicts families in the south in the late 1800sthat were close in some ways but far apart in others. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.

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Letters from my Sister comes from the perspective of two sisters living on a Cotton Farm in Alabama following the civil war. It follows their lives and those of their paid servants who are loyal to the family and happen to be black. Being in the south, superstition and prejudice are still high.

Callie and Emmy are twins. Emmy is engaged and Callie is not sure she ever will be but then she meets someone that gives her a whole new view of things. The beginning of the story sets up their relationship, the events of their time, and their tragic heartbreaks. When trauma happens along the way and Callie is left without memory of the events of 1 particular night, she is sent away. Emmy is touched by Tuberculosis and the two are separated. They write to each other as Callie is desperately trying to regain her memories.

This story is well written, emotional, and at times heart rending. Callie and Emmy, while twins are two very different personalities and love each other. Their relationship is evident. There are aspects of this story that move along quickly, while others take time to develop. The story was rich and full of life and was able to carry through the book with all the required emotion.

I received a copy of this book through the publisher and NetGalley and this is my honest review,

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We have come to expect a lot of any book written by Valerie Fraser Luesse, & this new volume does not disappoint. The setting becomes vividly alive to the reader, it is as if we have been transplanted in time & place, so that we feel as if we are there ourselves. Add to that, characters whom we can (mostly!) really like & care about, plus deeply moving storylines, & here is another winner. I was enjoying the opening chapters very much, albeit with the trepidation of knowing that with this author something deeper was coming. I won’t include any spoilers, suffice to say I can definitely recommend your reading Letters from my Sister. 4 1/2 stars

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The beautiful cover drew me to pick up this book by this new-to-me-author and I was awarded with beautiful writing.

I did expect the letters to play more of a prominent role from early on, but it did not take away my enjoyment of the story.

Callie and Emmy won me over from the start with their tight bond and different but complimenting personalities. They had their own struggles and fears, losses, and happiness.

It was the first time in a while I was heartbroken with some huge losses and would have preferred to be in that everything just have a happy ending fairy land.

I will be reading more books by this author for sure!

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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Letters From My Sister, by Valerie Fraser Luesse, was the first book I have had the pleasure to read from this author. It is set in the early 20th century, in Alabama and took the reader right to that place and time with her beautiful description of the fantastical setting. The characters were few, but all were well fleshed out, which made the story such an emotional rollercoaster. I will now be going back and finding more of Ms. Luesse' s books to fill my to-read list


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Some books while you may enjoy them a lot while you are reading them and forget about them soon after, this one is not like that. It will be a keeper on my shelf and in my mind.
Set in Alabama at the turn of the twentieth century, this is the story of strong sisterly love. Sisters Callie and Emmy are the privileged daughters of a wealthy cotton farmer. Their bond will show no breaks. Things run beautifully on their plantation home front until an unexpected guest shows up. Lily is a beautiful young girl who is the granddaughter of their housekeeper and has been brought to live with them due to unforeseen circumstances. Lily attracts the wrong kind of attention including Ryder's. Ryder, a married man with a roving eye is not trustworthy and a character I didn't like.
A poignant story, I could imagine myself there in each of the scenes the author has portrayed. A book such as this is so vividly imagined in my mind that it plays out like a movie.
Though there is much happiness in the book there is also sadness.
The author writes a book you will become invested in, with her authentic feeling characters and realistic events. There is a mystery in the book that will keep you reading as it's revealed later in the book. When the siblings are separated their bond continues on as they write letters to each other. I must say I wished the book was longer as it was just that good. Those who enjoy southern women's fiction with deep characters will enjoy this.

Published August 15, 2023
I was given a complimentary copy of this book.
All opinions expressed are my own.

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This book depicts a time when slaves and household help were treated like members of the family. Lily and Callie share every aspect of their privileged lives and are great friends. When circumstances beyond their control separate them, they maintain their friendship by letter writing. The novel delves deeply into the girls' families, revealing intriguing secrets as well as more serious issues including physical abuse, illness, and death. I loved how the author incorporated amusing conversation throughout the story.

Emily and Callie Bullock are daughters of a successful cotton farm in Alabama, in the 20th Century. The core of the story is on Callie and her struggles. The characters are relatable, flawed, and intriguing.

Callie has always been a wild child. She enjoys the outdoors, especially the river and trees. She finds freedom in the woods. Callie awoke one morning from her slumber beneath a tree. She has no memory of how she got there, but as she begins to feel better, she starts to recall a few hazy confusing memories.

Emmy is thrilled about the future because she and Knox are engaged. Callie, on the other hand, is not happy that women do not have the same freedom as men. She has no hope of ever finding love. When she initially meets Solomon, a new neighbor who is striving to reclaim an abandoned property, he treats her very differently from other males. He gives her the freedom to shed social limitations and discover her true self.

In this story, two sisters experience change as they grow up in a southern home. If you enjoy historical fiction set in the south, with family drama and a few mysteries to solve, you'll like this story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I requested and received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

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