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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

When I'm Gone

ISBN: 9781503953383

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 3/15/2016

Format: Hardover

My Rating: 4 Stars

Dear Luke,

First let me say—I love you…I didn’t want to leave you…

Luke Richardson has returned home after burying Natalie, his beloved wife of sixteen years, ready to face the hard job of raising their three children alone. But there’s something he’s not prepared for—a blue envelope with his name scrawled across the front in Natalie’s handwriting, waiting for him on the floor of their suburban Michigan home.

The letter inside, written on the first day of Natalie’s cancer treatment a year ago, turns out to be the first of many. Luke is convinced they’re genuine, but who is delivering them? As his obsession with the letters grows, Luke uncovers long-buried secrets that make him question everything he knew about his wife and their family. But the revelations also point the way toward a future where love goes on—in written words, in memories, and in the promises it’s never too late to keep.

My Review

A special thank you to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Emily Bleeker returns following her debut, Wreckage with another bittersweet story WHEN I'M GONE, of human emotions, family, and secrets between a husband and wife. As the book opens Luke Richardson is returning to his suburban Michigan home, with his children after Natalie’s funeral. Cancer. They have been married for sixteen years and now he is faced with raising the three children (Will, May, Clayton) on his own. He finds a letter(s) To Luke. Where did this come from? The mail slot? Natalie had picked out the door ten years earlier. After one freezing Michigan winter she had asked him to seal it off. He had never gotten around to it. Not in nine years. And now his dead wife was communicating with him through a slot. "When people die they do not send letters through mail slots, they don’t even go live in some magical place called heaven, they just die. Someone was messing with him. Who is mailing the letters? " The letter. Her handwriting. No one but Natalie would write letters to her widower in a fifty-cent spiral notebook and rip it out without cutting off the fringe. He tried waiting but could not put it off any longer. Dear Luke, First let me say—I love you…I didn’t want to leave you… The first one was the day before she started chemo—afraid of losing herself. She will write again the following day. A Journal. Writing letters from beyond the grave was far stranger but also—wonderful. Could there really be another one tomorrow? The idea made him smile. He had given up on hope; however, now he imagined another blue envelope slipping mysteriously through the slot on his front door. The letters make him feel she was alive a little longer. From witty, wishes, kisses, cuddles, hidden secrets, advice, instructions for the kids and demands he get back to work. Then when she was unable to write by hand, the printer letter came on Day 34. She even has a friend, a twenty-one- year-old, Jessie; a girl with chronic kidney disease. She would be a wonderful example to their children. She could help the kids with the homework and dinner, and all he needs to do is hire her. Luke was always afraid when the last one would come. As the book draws near the ending, Luke receives his final good-bye. Fifty-eight letters filled with Natalie-- her words, her stories, her regrets, her beliefs. From high school when they first met, Luke’s heartbreaking childhood---each their separate ways to reconnect again in college, marriage, and a family—until their life is cut short with cancer. She was going to let her secret die with her, when only a few months before her death—she spills her secrets. Painful, heartbreaking, and poignant. The author does an outstanding job unraveling the woman behind the letters; her dreams, thoughts, and aspirations. The ongoing complex mystery and suspense revolves around Natalie’s secret revealed in the ending—the author keeps the reader guessing with intriguing clues. A nice ending. Touching, heartwarming, and beautifully written---a love story. I think letters are a special touch and a loving gesture. On a personal note: Cancer is such a brutal disease. My mom is still struggling with colon cancer metastasized (going on three years). A roller-coaster ride from surgeries, hospitalizations to on and off chemo. Sometimes she seems better without chemo—destroying her immune system and other organs; however, she is a trooper. The specialists recommend she not go back on chemo; however, at 84, she is determined to fight. Speaking of letters, I gave her a gift—a book long before her diagnosis about things in her childhood, to complete---last week she told me she was writing in it before her eyes get too bad. I will look forward to receiving it one day after she is gone, to pass along to my grandchildren. Unless she outlives all of us!

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About the Author

I’m a mom of four, an author and Chicagoland native. My first novel, WRECKAGE, was released by Lake Union Publishing March 2015.

My second book, WHEN I’M GONE, will hit shelves March 2016. I’m learning to balance life as a stay-at-home mom with my life as a writer. Both come with a lot of laughter, tears and a shocking amount of Diet Coke. Read More







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