“We were like two stars converging around the same axis, but with paths that missed each other by a fraction of infinity.”
The thing about diving into 53 Letters is that it’s my first Leylah Attar read. I am part giddy, part nervous but completely excited because there’s something magical in meeting an author’s words for the very first time and meeting Leylah through 53 Letters was a thrill; a ride I never expected to consume every fiber of my being.
“No one knows how many tomorrows they have. That’s what makes it all so precious.”
53 Letters is about Iranian-Canadian Shayda Kazemi-Hijazi and Troy Heathgate whose story braved the passing of time, the unfolding of new chapters and the weight of making a choice. The novel spanned decades and wove in and out of their past and present lives. Bluntly put, theirs is a scandalous story of extra-marital affair that spanned years but it was told with so much depth, with intense passion and all-consuming devotion that I was tiptoeing between heartbreak and relief.
This is neither a typical story nor something for the close minded.
I am this person who is vehemently anti-cheating, and love triangles usually make me weary. But this, this gutting piece of Shayda and Troy’s story assaulted my heart and made me think and evaluate my opinions and beliefs as well. I am rambling. It took me days to sit down and start gathering my thoughts for a review. And here I am, rambling still.
“We have an infinite capacity to love, but when you wrap up your love and give it to someone, they expect all of it. And that’s what you think too—that you’re giving them everything you’ve got. You really do. Until you realize that love is end-less, bottom-less, boundary-less. The more you give, the more gushes out. It spills over, refusing to be contained in neat little parcels, swelling like a river after a flash flood. And in the end, it doesn’t matter which part was whose, because in the end it’s all one, like streams merging into the ocean”
The novel is set in Canada where Shayda migrated after her family was able to send her off from Iran in hopes of bringing them there and having a better life. In Canada, Shayda was set up with another Iranian, Hafez and the two eventually wed. Life was not easy and both were fighting demons but they were together and they were trying to make life work for them. Shayda met Troy in her early twenties under unforeseeable circumstances. They felt the connection, they felt the pull towards each other but neither acted on what they know they both felt. Years passed, lives went on and Shayda and Troy saw each other once more, this time around, more matured, more adult and more determined to examine and evaluate what they have and see if it is something real or something they can just shake off.
What followed was a series of events, a series of accidents, and a succession of one heartache to another, from one lie to an even bigger omission to commission. There are no wicked villains in this story, just the raw assault of emotions and weighing right versus wrong, happiness versus obligation, norms versus freedom. There are no bad characters, but there’s definitely no good one as well. They are damaged. They are real. This is not a love triangle wherein you will hate one or two of the persons involved. Each one was flawed but each one has a beautiful soul. What tore at me is that I am broken– part of me wants Shayda to be the dutiful wife and mother but there’s also this part of me who’s screaming at her to fight for her happiness. This story made me step out of my comfort zone and though I was hesitant at first, I’m truly glad I did because this story made me think outside of what is told to be what’s right and made me examine what my values and priorities comprise of.
“So what’s it like? To have it all?
Like flying. Soaring. Until you come across the one thing you’d give it all up for, and can never have.”
Reading about cheating is not easy for me. There are times when I have to put the book down, collect my thoughts, take a deep breath, clear my mind once more before diving back in. But this story, it just has so many emotional layers that it will undo you, feed on your soul and hand back to you what’s left of your ravaged heart.
Leylah, I might have fallen in love with you at first read and the way you ended this heck of a story is the scary cherry on top of this beetroot cake.
This is not your typical love story.
It’s not so black and white. Lines are crossed.
Walls are smashed. Good becomes bad.
Bad becomes very, very good.
Shayda Hijazi—the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter. For thirty-three years, she has played by the rules, swallowing secrets, burying dreams and doing whatever it takes to anchor her family. Shayda Hijazi is about to come face to face with the one thing that can rip it all apart, the one thing her heart has always been denied: Love.
Troy Heathgate—untamed, exhilarating, dangerous—a man who does exactly as he pleases. Life bends to his will. Until he comes across the one thing he would give it all up for, but can never have.
Born on the same day in opposite corners of the world, their lives collide. And nothing is ever the same again.
Spanning three decades, 53 Letters for My Lover is a fiercely sensual, emotional ride to the heart of an epic, forbidden love that defies it all—an intimate exploration of love, loyalty, passion, betrayal, and the human journey for hope, happiness and redemption.