Every year, on her birthday, Laura gets a letter from a stranger. That stranger claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend Bobby, but there’s a catch: he’ll only tell her what he knows in exchange for something…personal. So begins Laura’s sordid relationship with her new penpal, built on a foundation of quid pro quo. Her quest for closure will push her to bizarre acts of humiliation and harm, yet no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape her correspondent’s demands. The letters keep coming, and as time passes, they have a profound effect on Laura.
- Title: Dear Laura
- Author: Gemma Amor
- Cover Artist: Gemma Amor
- Publisher: Gemma Amor
- ISBN: 179787571X
- Publication Date: July 2, 2019
- Content Warnings: mention of p*dophilia
In her wrenching novella Dear Laura, Gemma Amor shows that there’s more than one way to take a life. Some methods are just slower and more insidious than others. While waiting for the school bus one day, the title character sees a strange, hulking man drive off with her best friend Bobby. Laura is wracked with grief and guilt, obsessing over Bobby’s disappearance and torturing herself with unanswerable questions: Why did Bobby get in the car with the man? Could she have done anything to prevent it from happening? And where is Bobby now?
The only person who can answer that last question begins corresponding with Laura, sending her letters designed to twist the knife inside the wound where all her anguish lies. Signing his name only as “X,” the man asks Laura to do things for him in exchange for information on Bobby’s whereabouts. X sends cryptic clues that take Laura on a hellish scavenger hunt, and the things that he asks her to do slowly chip away at her sense of self and destroy whatever remnant of security she had left after her best friend was stolen from her. Bobby isn’t the only one who disappeared; Laura is also going missing, one small piece at a time.
This is a short read, but it is not a light one. The grim story of Laura losing more and more of herself every year to X’s cruel machinations is devastating. The narrative device of alternating between flashbacks and the present day takes an already suspenseful plot and tightens the noose on the reader; I had no choice but to read this as fast as I could, despite the suffocating grief and dread. Like so much great horror, Dear Laura is bleak and shattering. And like so much great horror, there is a wry sense of redemption to be found in the fact that we all must carry on despite the surrounding darkness:
There was little point in fighting the dark: it comes for everyone, in the end. Better to accept this, and work harder when the light returned.
This story will stick with you. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.