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When You Read This: A Novel (Hardcover)
This entertaining novel by Mary Adkins is a glance into the complexity of emotions that develop in the wake of grief. Written in a creative and easy-to-read epistolary style, the story follows the correspondence of the individuals who had connections to the late Iris Massey, who passed away from cancer at the young age of 33. Through emails and text messages, the reader gets an inside look at the ways in which the novel’s characters cope with the loss of Iris in their own ways, as well as form connections with each other. “When You Read This” serves as a testament to the fact that love and intimate connection can be found even after experiencing a loss.— From Kate's Picks
February 2019 Indie Next List
“Death is called the final act, but for our loved ones who survive us, the show inevitably goes on. In When You Read This, Mary Adkins gives equal stage time to Iris Massey, a woman recently diagnosed with terminal cancer who begins a blog about her experiences, and those she has left behind. Grief is a unifying theme in this novel, from Iris, who struggles to come to terms with her death, to her sister, Jade, who is left rudderless without her, and even Iris’ boss, Smith, who is determined to fulfill Iris’ last request of having her blog published as a book. Poignant and bittersweet, When You Read This is a well-rounded blend of romance, comedy, and drama.”
— Heather Herbaugh, Mitzi's Books, Rapid City, SD
“Fans of Where'd You Go, Bernadette will love this. . . a bittersweet, often funny novel about hope, memory, and loose ends.”
-Real Simple, “The Best Books of 2019 (So Far)”
A comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts, for fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell.
Iris Massey is gone.
But she’s left something behind.
For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.
Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.
Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss.
About the Author
Mary Adkins is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and the Atlantic. A native of the American South and a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School, she lives in New York City with her family. She also teaches storytelling for The Moth.
“When You Read This checks all the essential boxes of Up Lit—though-provoking, tear-jerking, funny—and adds a delectable epistolary twist.”
“Delightful… An epistolary novel for the 21st century, When You Read This sparkles with a perfect blend of humor, pathos and romance…. Adkins has managed to paint an authentic and nuanced portrait of grief and the various ways people attempt to cope and continue on with life when the worst has happened. Inventive and irresistible, When You Read This is a tender and uplifting story about love, loss and the resilience of the human heart that will have you laughing and crying in equal turns.”
“Adkins brilliantly captures the rhythms and cadences of the epistolary format in the digital age through a delightful cast of quirky, imperfect characters, both dead and alive. Tart, sweet, poignant, and rich with humor; completely irresistible.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A touching, funny, and life-affirming tale.”
— Publishers Weekly
“A vibrant epistolary collage with pieces of satire, romance, and family drama overlapping. . . . The book moves with the entertaining swiftness and abrupt tonal shifts of communication in the digital age, with particular thanks to Carl, the intern Smith hires following Iris’ death: a millennial ex machina who juices up the plot with perfect self-importance and -absorption. But thanks to Adkins, even Carl has a (hint of) compelling backstory and a delightful arc. An excellent story that’s condensed into a great example of the epistolary format: something that’s thrilling to expand and decode while reading.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“[A] heartfelt page-turner . . . A natural readalike for Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments.”
“As with Maria Semple’s mixed-media masterwork Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Adkins’s debut novel is so much more than its clever style. I read it briskly with a permanent smile on my face, even when the tears were falling. Like a quasar, WHEN YOU READ THIS feels miraculous and leaves a lasting impression long after its final moment.”
— Val Emmich, author of The Reminders and Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel
“This inventive and hilarious novel has it all: Mid-life crisis sufferers denying their regrets, a lawless intern with alarming email etiquette, poetic online therapists and a moving message about the resiliency of the human heart. Read this book—I loved it!”
— Courtney Maum, author of Touch and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
“A remarkable new take on the epistolary novel, WHEN YOU READ THIS manages to thread the finest of needles: a book about a young woman who died of cancer that is neither maudlin nor sentimental, but rather clear-eyed, poignant, and just as often hilarious as it is somber. One of the more memorable books I’ve read this year.”
— Doree Shafrir, author of Startup: A Novel and co-host of Forever35 Podcast
“Warm, original, funny and heartbreaking, this novel made me drop everything so I could read it in one lovely afternoon. WHEN YOU READ THIS is inventive and witty, but more importantly it’s honest and wise. I adored it.”
— Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses and The Hopefuls
“Deeply moving but also uplifting, Mary Adkins’ debut novel is easy to read but hard to forget.”
— Anne Youngson, author of Meet Me at the Museum
“In her brave debut, Mary Adkins challenges readers to rethink the measure of a life well lived as social media changes the way we interact with others and, by extension, the way we grieve and, eventually, heal. WHEN YOU READ THIS is a poignant commentary on the endless possibility of connection in the online age and the pain and loneliness we experience when those connections fail.”
— Meghan MacLean Weir, author of The Book of Essie
“I loved every word of this sweet little gem of a book. It was a quick, humorous—but ultimately touching—read that I couldn’t put down!”
— Meg Cabot