Book Review: Dear Laura by Gemma Amor
This novella is meant to disturb, and it succeeds.
Told in the third person, limited perspective, the tale of an obsessed killer and a grieving, confused young girl fluidly jumps from past to present. The story feels like a bit of a gut-punch, which is a testimony to the author’s ability.
Poor Laura is a bit of a latch-key kid, but the lifestyle didn’t impede her. She’s a sweet girl, a good student, and as she turned thirteen, she and her childhood best friend Bobby began to “go steady.” On their way to school one day, Laura witnessed Billy’s abduction. Shortly there after, the grieving friend receives a letter from Bobby’s abductor. In exchange for information about her friend, the “pen pal” X demands a deeply personal item from Laura.
The abductor manipulates Laura year after year, dropping a letter around her birthday. He stalks her into her adulthood and crushes any bursts of self-possession. After years of living in terror, the letters stop, and Laura allows herself to fall in love with a man, marry, and bare a son. As a middle-aged woman, Laura receives another letter, and this one threatens her son. Laura interprets the clues in the letters to finally confront her tormentor and find closure.
The limited perspective feels claustrophobic, which gives a glimpse of the anxiety Laura experiences. Her secrets distance her from everyone around. Her connection with X and by extension Bobby and her own lost childhood consume her. Sadness, guilt, and terror shroud her until she at last finds her way “always on, and never back.”