James Patterson,
Sam's Letters to Jennifer
(Time Warner, 2004)

James Patterson is an author who can write books almost faster than folks can read them. OK, that isn't quite true, but he does have a penchant for getting multiple books published each year. And he keeps up with different genres as well, whether it's murder-mystery (the Alex Cross series, the Women's Murder Club books) or teen thrillers (the winged children stories) or romance.

The first Patterson romance novel I reviewed, Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, threw me off a little. When I think of Patterson, I think of bloodshed, death and chase scenes. Where did this smooching and lovee-dovee stuff come from?!!? With Sam's Letters to Jennifer, I was a little better prepared for more kissing, less violence. (I hope I don't ruin the book by pointing out that there is at least a slap in this book!)

From the title, one might mistakenly think Sam is a guy writing love letters to his girl Jennifer. However, that isn't the case. Sam is short for Samantha. She is Jennifer's grandmother. Sam's daughter (Jennifer's mom) died years ago. Sam and Jennifer have become very close -- best friends of sorts. Jennifer lost her first husband in an accident. With all her guilt and grief, she acts as if her love life is over. With the help of a stack of letters that Sam wrote to Jennifer, she learns more about her grandmother's secret life, her grandfather's true character, and that life is best when a person has someone to love. In short, Jennifer begins to heal and move forward from her first love.

The letters are important for many reasons. For example, they show Jennifer how to make the most of life. A person is best served focusing on family and loved ones over career. And despite any obstacles life puts in your way, love is an important reason for living. From another point of view, the letters act as a confession for Sam. There are things she has done that are not common knowledge. The letters are a way of getting things off her chest.

The audiobook is narrated by two actresses. Anne Heche narrates from Jennifer's point of view. Anne has been in several movies (Six Days Seven Nights, Psycho) and TV shows (Another World, Ally McBeal). Jane Alexander is the voice of Sam whenever the letters are being read. You might know Jane from All the President's Men or The Great White Hope. In both cases, these ladies do a fine job playing their main characters. Other female parts are relatively distinguishable. Neither actress can project a convincing male voice.

Sam's Letters to Jennifer will definitely not be for your average Patterson fan. This novel will contain too much sentimental sap for them. As James puts it (found on the back of the audiobook box), "Two extraordinary love stories are entwined here, full of hope and pain and emotions that never die down." If that does indeed fit your idea of a good book to listen to on CD, then note that the unabridged version of the story is about 4.5 hours long. While not as good as some other Patterson novels, I enjoyed it for what it had to offer.

review by
Wil Owen

30 June 2007

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