The Red Address Book was sort of an impulse buy – I was at my local bookstore, Roscoe Books, because I had just finished a book and needed something new to read (I really can’t go a day without reading something!). Nothing seemed to be sticking out to me as I was browsing but as I was about to leave sad and empty handed, this little number caught my eye on the table. Reading the synopsis about a 96 year old woman who writes letters to her only living family member, niece Jenny, about her life and memories spanning across decades through Paris, America, Stockholm, fleeing the war, following and losing her one true love, and doing what it takes to survive everything in between, I was intrigued!
This book is centered around 96 year old Doris and the red address book she’s had since she was a little girl, gifted by her father. In it, she’s written contact information about each person in her life and has enjoyed carrying this piece of home with her wherever she went. However, as Doris has come to accept with a heavy heart, most people in her address book have the word “dead” written next to them. As her days become numbered, Doris refuses to leave this world without preserving her memories through words. She starts writing letters and stories to give to her niece, Jenny who is the only family member left in her life. As Doris flips through her address book, she reminisces on the memories and importance of these people and the journey she has taken with each. Alongside Doris, we feel our heart break as our forever love is lost and found, we are fearful for our future as we escape WWII, we feel betrayed as men take advantage of us. Doris helps us understand what she has had to persevere in order to get to where she is now; a 96 year old woman living alone with only her thoughts and memories.
I gave this book 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars. The synopsis and idea of this book was so good but for some reason it just fell a little flat for me. I think it may have been the writing that made it difficult for me to get completely sucked in. I wish that the book focused more on Doris’ past and life during major events, such as fleeing WWII. It all kind of felt rushed with the constant back and forth between present and past. With that being said, the back half was much more interesting and structured than the first and is the reason this book went from a solid 3 star story to 4 stars.
The end of the book was very sweet and loving and it all sort of came together, which is a good thing. I adored Doris and Jenny and I loved the relationship the two of them shared throughout the book. As much as I wish I could’ve read more about Doris’ past life, I will admit the theme of love and life was so innocent and refreshing. The fear of death and the urge to appreciate all aspects of our life was a true eye-opener. Doris taught me to enjoy the little things in my life, worry less, have fun and go after my dreams! I can’t deny that the ending brought me to tears, as it was so relatable. Doris was such a lovely character and had so many likable features that made it easy to push through this book until the end. She was maternal and loving, wise and funny, admirable and brave.
I enjoyed this book for what it was and I admire the overall takeaway Lundberg wanted her readers to gather. I felt like Doris was my own great-aunt and although her words of love and life were directed to Jenny, I felt them deep in my heart as if they were for me. We could all use a Doris in our life, in one way or another.