An Amazon Review
By Heather - January 9, 2014
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This is a beautiful collection of letters that represents the kind of story most people dream of having themselves. The introductory material explains how the couple came together and also paints a vivid picture of the early 1900s in America and Jamaica. It gives you great context to understand the letters and how extraordinary their lives were.
You first hear from their youngest daughter, Ruth, who explains the origin of their family and describes her father so well it’s impossible not to feel you know him and love him already. It’s clear from the beginning that he was an exceptional man that worked extremely hard for his family to prosper in a new country. While it’s obvious someone had to be tough to make it in those days (or any days, really), Ruth makes sure you know how gentle and loving this man was. He left such a strong, positive impression on everyone in his life; it’s amazing.
Then you meet Judith Lovell, the granddaughter. She took on the massive task of researching family history and compiling the letters into this book. Through the process she learned a great deal about the community David Hurd was born in and the community he moved to as a young man. Lovell does an excellent job at putting you in his shoes and seeing what life was like. She includes several pictures so you can see the people you’re reading about (something I really appreciate). And she recounts her own visit to her family’s homeland to give an updated picture of what Jamaica is like today.
David and Avril were “introduced” by family and the pen pal relationship grew quickly into an engagement. Because of the distance, it was an incredible feat to find love and develop such a strong family. Long distance now is considered nearly impossible and that’s with all the modern advantages that we have. In 1914, all they could do was mail a letter and wait, wait, wait. In fact, the waiting is a common complaint on both their sides. It’s hard for us to imagine waiting over a week for a letter from a beloved and I can’t imagine it was much easier then.
They are both very religious people and I believe that went a long way to helping them deal with the distance and waiting and all around giant leap of faith. But if you’re not particularly religious or not Christian, I beg you not to decide against this book because of it. I ask that you instead find their faith in each other and a higher power admirable. It’s certainly not a book that is trying to preach. It’s simply trying to show the dedication and love this man had for his future wife. But their faith is certainly praiseworthy and, in my opinion, explains how they made this work as well as they did. They were both strong people who weren’t afraid to take a risk for something they believed in.
You ease into the letters a bit at first while Ruth and Judith set the scene for you. It’s apparent from the beginning that David Hurd is well spoken and intelligent. Then it becomes even more apparent how hopelessly head over heels he is for Avril. Once you get into back-to-back letters it’s difficult to stay distant. You will remember that these were real people, not just characters, and be stunned at the openness between them. Love stories these days are so often about the flowery. It’s perfection or bust. But that’s just not real love and we all know it. These letters, while all lovely and touching, show the struggles of a newly minted couple. The difficult subjects aren’t edited out. Neither are the views that may seem outdated to some (such as her concerns about having to get a job and his reassuring her that he was a real man who would keep her from that). While that may make some women cringe, it’s crucial in any nonfiction work to keep in mind the times the people lived. This was an amazing and likely crucial promise he made to her, especially considering how he was just starting to get his feet under him at the time.
I found these letters remarkable and I applaud this family for maintaining their history and heritage the way they have. It’s clear there was a lot of love in this family from the early letters through the front matter written by David’s descendants. If you’re looking for a real and inspiring love story, this is it. While some aspects are hard to relate to now (namely pen pals and snail mail), it’s extremely easy to be swept away by their story. Every family should have such a strong leader at the helm.