Overtones of a postmodern fairy tale give added resonance to what is otherwise a very contemporary‘and totally enchanting‘ love story. One summer morning in her 41st year, Helen MacFarquhar, the divorced owner of an audaciously pink bookstore in an exclusive Connecticut shore town, finds a mysterious letter in her mail. Addressed ``Dear Goat,'' and signed ``As Ever, Ram,'' it is a love letter of such intensity and passion that she becomes obsessed by its urgently suggestive message. The effect of that letter on Helen's orderly life is the burden of this comedy of manners, which in Schine's capable hands also becomes a witty send-up of cultural hypocrisies and modern relationships. The letter is next read by Johnny Howell, 20-year-old college student and part-time help at Helen's store. Magic strikes; like some characters in Shakespeare's comedies, Johnny immediately falls in love with Helen, and, after a series of misunderstandings, they consummate what has become a mutual passion. Subterfuge is necessary, of course, especially when Helen's 11-year-old daughter returns from camp and Helen's ditsy globe-trotting mother and grande-dame grandmother also decide to spend some weeks in Helen's large old house. Schine's prose is as light and delicate as gossamer and as earthy as colloquial slang and sex. A natural with epigrams and humorous aperçus, Schine has an antic imagination that conjurs arresting images. Her fine satiric eye and sophisticated intelligence, displayed previously in Rameau's Niece, To the Birdhouse and Alice in Bed are here equally evident. Helen is a captivating, complex character: demanding, flirtatious, whimsical, capricious, bossy, independent‘and suddenly vulnerable. The twist ending is nicely foreshadowed and quite delicious in its implications. Like the love letter of the title, this book enchants and seduces. (May)
Why is Helen so unnerved and preoccupied by finding an unsigned love letter with her mail? That is the readers' question as we follow Helen's adventures with her bookshop employees and her family in this new novel by the author of Rameau's Niece (LJ 3/15/93). Schine's latest novel keeps us guessing until it all comes together at the end. A resort community setting, wry characters, and an off beat plot combine elegantly into a charming novel that will appeal to a wide audience. Recommended for most libraries.‘Patricia C. Heaney, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y.