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The Red Address Book

Review

The Red Address Book

THE RED ADDRESS BOOK took its inspiration from journalist Sofia Lundberg’s great-aunt Doris. In this age of instant electronic communication, very few folks maintain an old-fashioned address book. But a worn, red leather address book that belonged to Lundberg’s great-aunt was the visible prompt that turned an idea into this impressive debut novel.

The fictional Doris is 96 years old and living a very isolated life in her Stockholm apartment. Most of her friends and relatives have long since passed on, which makes her weekly Skype visits with her great-niece Jenny in America all the more important. Doris realizes that her time is getting short, and she wants to leave little Jenny with a family history. So many holes exist in what Jenny really knows about the past. As a result, Doris begins writing stories to accompany the names that appear in her address book so those memories will not be lost. She subsequently shares these stories with Jenny.

"[T]he book ends with a thought-provoking question: 'Did you love enough?' This is something for all of us to ponder."

Doris lived quite an interesting life, though not an easy one. At age 13, after her beloved father’s death, she was sent away to Paris by her impoverished mother to be employed as a third maid to Madame Serafin. Third maid is a lowly position, which meant that Doris was assigned the most unpleasant chores.

Because of her natural beauty and Madame’s connections, Doris trained as a model in Paris with the title of “living mannequin.” A chance meeting with a young American, Allan Smith, developed into a romance. However, Doris was heartbroken when Allan returned to America without a word. An old letter finally arrives from the US, but when it is followed up on, too much time has passed. Allan has married and moved on.

Life goes on as it must and should. Doris moves to Sweden. Years and years pass. After a fall in her apartment, she is hospitalized and in failing health. Jenny is determined to visit her great-aunt and has a wild and grand scheme to find Allan, if he is alive, before it is too late.

While the story does not ring particularly plausible, this is fiction after all, so an author may take the reader on any journey of imagination that he or she chooses.

Two things stand out in THE RED ADDRESS BOOK. First is the need to leave a little bit of ourselves behind, possibly to prove that we actually existed and perhaps so we will not be promptly forgotten. Secondly, the book ends with a thought-provoking question: “Did you love enough?” This is something for all of us to ponder.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 18, 2019

The Red Address Book
by Sofia Lundberg

  • Publication Date: January 8, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 1328473015
  • ISBN-13: 9781328473011