A debut collection of poetically charged love letters, exchanged by the editor’s mother and her first husband in the mid-1960s.
After Greer Dewitt died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 71, her daughter, Gould, the editor of this volume, inherited a box of letters and journals. In it, there was correspondence, dated between 1965 and 1968, between Dewitt and Dennis King, a man whom she met in Sunday school when he was 19 and she was 21. Gould had already known about King—her mother had spoken of him after her divorce in 1987 from Gould’s father—but she wasn’t aware of the full story of their rhapsodic romance. The letters trace the evolution of their relationship; in the very beginning, Dewitt was infatuated with him, but King kept his distance and withheld full commitment. They weathered long periods of separation, while maintaining an apparently tempestuous one union. Still, Dewitt was crushed when King unilaterally decided to enlist in the Marines, as it would be likely that he would be sent to Vietnam. The two married in 1966, and shortly afterward, Dewitt became pregnant but miscarried. In 1967, King was indeed sent off to war, where he was killed by a sniper the following year, and in an epilogue, Gould describes how Dewitt managed to climb out of her despair and eventually marry the editor’s father in 1977. The letters cover a full emotional range of Dewitt and King’s consuming relationship, depicting distrust and loneliness as well as euphoria. King, in particular, writes in soaring language, eschewing emotional restraint: “How is your agony?” he writes in one 1966 letter. “Does the protracted pain instill upon your heart the chrysalis of frustration that it does on mine?” (In another, he refers to her as “Blossom of all my Aprils.”) Also, the epistles provide a window into how callow youth can quickly mature thanks to life’s obligations. For readers who have no personal connection to Dewitt or King, the collection will likely seem a bit long, however, especially as many letters repeat similar sentiments.
An often beautiful, if repetitive, chronicle of youthful romance.