A successful anesthesiologist commits to writing a letter every day to his best and longest friend after learning that she had been recovering from brain surgery.
In his brief introduction to this epistolary collection, Boggs explains his project as an attempt to stimulate his friend’s brain by amusing her with “stories, some funny, some bittersweet, about what the years had done to me since we had spent all of our days together from elementary through high school.” Peppered with poems, illustrations and quotes from people like Oscar Wilde and Rodney Dangerfield, every letter ranges between two and five pages and is generally a thoughtful, personal exploration of Boggs’ present goings-on or whatever topic happens to be on his mind. In letters dated between mid-March to early May 2009, Boggs recounts personal anecdotes and intimate memories about his childhood in Albuquerque, medical school in Chicago, trips to Istanbul and Mexico City and, among other places, working temporarily in Greenville, Miss., from where he wrote a number of the letters. But mostly he writes about small-town life in Gaffney, S.C., where he and his family lived for 20 years, recounting the mayor, whom everyone called "Chicken Jolly," and the various men who have shamelessly hit on his wife. Each letter functions as an almost-essay, a highly personal exercise in memory and creativity, but collectively form something more akin to a memoir, in which he exposes his passion for Latino dance music and ’70s rock album cover art, the history of vehicles he’s owned, the stories of old girlfriends, his Buddhist-leaning protestant faith and the surprising ease of sending his second daughter off to school after the difficulty of sending his first. At times strikingly insightful and often quite witty, Boggs writes with impressive consistency, sometimes openly battling writers’ block and winning every time. Most readers will find Boggs’ resulting meandering to be enjoyable, while others will likely want more structure or depth from his musings, such as his criticism of the Google era, where he fails to go beyond lamenting that “there is something wonderful about the open-endedness of not knowing everything.” Rather than offering insight into the makings of an intimate friendship, Boggs emphasizes the results of his friendship with Dinah, one that serves as a platform for illuminating nostalgia, nonromantic love and storytelling.
A sincere, original tribute to the art of letter writing, small-town living and friendship.