The Letter Opener

The Letter Opener

Book - 2006
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It is 1989 and Naiko is working in the Undeliverable MailOffice, a cavernous space that resembles a giant, congested pawnshop. Immersedin things lost and missing, she searches for clues to match undeliverable mailwith addresses, a job that allows her to achieve a semblance of order in adisorderly world. It is a shock, then, when Naiko's co-worker Andrei, anenigmatic Romanian refugee who has become the unlikely object of Naiko'sfascination, suddenly vanishes.

As the novel reveals itself in exquisitely wrought layers thatdrift through time from the Second World War to the fall of communism, Andrei'sstory of his past life in communist Romania becomes an opaque reflection ofNaiko's own existence, and objects--from the pens hoarded by Naiko's motherin her retirement home to the personal effects of Jewish women that Andrei'sgrandmother sorts through at Birkenau--become touchstones for memories andmeaning, loss and love. A luminous debut novel from a rising talent of the newgeneration of Canadian writers, The Letter Opener is a compelling work ofliterary fiction that glows with truth.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins, c2006
ISBN: 9780002006071
0002006073
Branch Call Number: FIC Macle
Characteristics: 312 p. ; 23 cm

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WVMLStaffPicks Feb 01, 2015

A delightful literary debut from a young Canadian author. Naiko is working in the Undeliverable Mail Office where she sorts through lost items and tries to find their rightful owner. She becomes friends with co-worker Andrei a Romanian refugee. When he mysteriously vanishes during the fall of the Ceausescu dictatorship, she becomes obsessed with keeping his stories and memory alive. She also begins to question her own life and finds new understanding for her aging mother and a rekindled romance.

melwyk Jan 05, 2015

This is a dreamy, introspective book; a story that is being told to us by main character Naiko. She's an employee at the Undeliverable Mail Office of Canada Post -- her job is to try to match up all the missing letters and items that end up in their office with claims that come in to the facility. It's a perfect set-up for musings on identity, how physical objects represent emotions and memories, and on connection.

There are some beautiful phrases, some great characters, a unique and intriguing setting, and lots to think about. There were a few flaws: sometimes the story felt like it was moving a little too slowly or distancing the reader a bit too much. Overall, though, I did find this a good read.

Cdnbookworm May 18, 2011

This novel is written from the point of view of Naiko, who works in the Undeliverable Mail Office in Toronto. Naiko's mother is Japanese and her father is Scottish. Her family thinks the job is less than what she is capable of, and want more for her. Naiko's boyfriend, Paolo, is from Argentina. Naiko loves her work and feels a sense of accomplishment when she can bring an item together with its intended recipient. Naiko becomes friends with a new co-worker, Andrei, a refugee from Romania. Andrei fled Romania with his homosexual lover, but they became separated in the escape and he has not seen Nikolai since. As the friendship continues, Andrei gradually tells Naiko his story, and when he suddenly disappears without a word to anyone, Naiko clings to his stories and tries to find the answers to his disappearance. Naiko's own family issues reflect here too. Her parents separated years ago and her father moved to England. She feels distanced from him emotionally and has little contact with him. Her older sister is a successful journalist travelling overseas and making Naiko feel inadequate. Her mother has developed dementia and Naiko has made the decision to place her in a nursing home, visiting her regularly and trying to find a connection with her. Paolo wants more from the relationship than Naiko has been giving and she must deal also with his resentment at her fascination with Andrei's disappearance.
This is an altogether engrossing story of families, connections, memory and loss.

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