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Book Review: Letters to the Grave by Lucia Cascioli

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In Letters to the Grave by Lucia Cascioli, we meet siblings Sofia, Michael, and Lucy; they have suffered greatly as children after the death of both of their parents within a short period of time. As their mother is about to pass, she asks them to write to her after she is gone. In spite of being raised in an economically poor environment, their mother made them feel rich with her love and ingenuity. Until Michael and Sofia suffer through another tragic loss, they continued to write letters to their parents in a diary kind of format.

When Sofia and Michael sign up for Doctors without Borders, they begin their letter writing again. Sofia is now a psychiatrist and Michael is a physician. Their journeys take them to exotic third world places like Boguila, Vietnam and Ethiopia. The experiences that they have in those countries teach them about how people can live with very little and they meet other compassionate individuals who share their desire to make a difference. Their mother shared much of the same ingenuity as some of the health care professionals they now work with, in that they can be creative and come up with simple solutions to complex problems while working with almost no budget.

Because they are in places of political unrest, the siblings also witness horrible acts of violence against the people that they are trying to help. Unfortunately, Michael and Sofia both suffer greatly while they are in Libya during an uprising. Left alone, Sofia uses these letters, which her aunt has been collecting, to reflect back on their adventures. By reading Michael’s stories she is able to maintain a feeling of still being connected to him.

Letters to the Grave is both sobering and fascinating. Some of the letters written were borrowed from a real doctor who was a part of Doctors without Borders. As the letters take the reader into other worlds, it is fascinating to see how other people live; however, it is also tragic that they have so little while we have so much. As the author brings some of these characters to life, it is heartbreaking to see them suffer needlessly–especially as a result of civil unrest, which is really happening all over the world as I type these words. This is definitely a book that will hold your attention, and have you reflecting upon it after you finish. I highly recommend reading Letters to the Grave by Lucia Cascioli.

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