Book Review: Letters from the Closet by Amy Hollingsworth

About the book:
Title: Letters from the Closet: Ten Years of Correspondence That Changed My Life
Author: Amy Hollingsworth
Publisher: Howard Books
Release date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 256
Where I got the book: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Book summary:

It’s Tuesdays with Morrie – if Morrie were young and gay and Mitch Albom were a woman.

As the years and letters passed between John and Amy, the layers fell off as they explored and unmasked themselves and each other.

“A teacher is like a book,” John wrote, “wasted until he’s read. The student has to do that. You’ve done that.” While going through a period of despair, he wrote, “I hope our relationship survives your growing up and my growing down.”

Every writer needs a room of his own, but for some people, at certain times and in certain circumstances, the best you can do is a closet. From the confines—and protection—of his closet, John wrote these letters, letters that were read, cherished, and then locked away for decades in Amy’s closet. Now they are chronicled and shared for your enrichment.


A Different Kind of Love Story

Timely and relevant, this is a love story of the most contemporary kind. It’s a rare and beautiful glimpse into an intimate, but platonic, relationship between a gay English teacher and his young female protégée—each seeking connection and acceptance.

Now the student-turned-author looks back at the decade of letters that preceded her teacher’s untimely death. She collects the shards left by their clumsy, sometimes violent, attempts to unmask each other and counts the cost of knowing and being known.

Alternating between letter excerpts and a beautiful narrative from Amy, the story unfolds, making readers privy to a very personal tribute to the teacher who profoundly changed her life. As you enter their unveiled world, you’ll see truth reflected in their raw insights—and you’ll discover new revelations for your own life.

My review:

Letters from the Closet sucks you in from the very first page with rich detail and emotion. This is not a book about hero-worship. Amy makes no effort to portray John as some kind of god or symbol of perfection. Rather, this is an honest and open book that strips bare both her emotions and his, revealing two very real people.

I saved this book for a weekend when I would be alone so I could avoid those pesky questions like, “Can you fix me something to eat?” and “Mama, why are you crying?” When I made it through most of the book without crying, I thought I was in the clear. I was about 3/4 way through when the tears started. But some people are over-achievers, and Amy apparently couldn’t be satisfied with a few quiet, graceful (it could happen) tears running down my face as I read. No, by the end of the book, I was sobbing; it was loud and most definitely not graceful. As always, though, Amy infuses bits of humor into her story. Not in an inappropriate way, but in a way that reminds us that while life can be harsh, there is always something to smile about.

Letters from the Closet is a book about a girl’s relationship with her gay teacher, but it’s so much more, and if that’s all you take away from this book, then you’re missing out. This book is about relationships, and the connection we all seek to other humans.

“That’s what we both wanted. To be read. To be asked. To have someone in our lives we couldn’t fool.” – Letters from the Closet

Amy is also the author of The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers and Holy Curiosity. As a disclaimer, I will add that Amy has been an online friend for several years, but that in no way influences my reviews.