Book Review: Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe*

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Book review: Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe

* I was fortunate to receive this copy of Dear Fang, With Love for review from Corsair; thank you! All opinions are, of course, my own. *

'By turns both dark and hilarious, Dear Fang, With Love chronicles a bizarre Eastern European holiday taken by Vera - a ravishing, possibly psychotic, impossibly intelligent seventeen-year-old - and her estranged father, Lucas. From the acclaimed author of The Girls from Corona del Mar.'

Dear Fang, With Love came onto my radar after seeing a tweet from Greta Johnsen of the Nerdette Podcast praising it highly and telling everyone to grab a copy. You can get book reviews from anywhere these days and I love it. I was lucky to get my hands on a beautifully designed proof of Rufi Thorpe's book which now shows many signs of wear from knocking around in my bag, being read in the rain, and whilst eating my lunch on the train. There's even a chocolate stain. I could not put this book down.

The premise of Thorpe's book is an estranged father taking his troubled teenage daughter on a mysterious trip to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The story is told from his perspective, interspersed with emails from his daughter, Vera, to her boyfriend Fang back in America. Before their trip, Vera suffered a psychotic break at a high school party and is now in-and-out of therapy and taking medication for her Bipolar disorder. Lucas hopes this trip will help to calm her and serve as a refuge after he troubling times. Through this journey we learn more about Vera and her mental illness, Lucas' family history from World War II, and the complicated dynamics that can exist between fathers, daughters, and estranged family members. Vilnius serves as the perfect ghostly, historical, and artistic backdrop to this emotional and dizzying journey.

Thorpe's construction of characters is probably my favourite aspect of this novel. She has created true-to-life characters with endless complications that make them human. They contradict themselves and we can see their frailties through their actions, but their love always shines through, even if they don't want it to. We see the turmoil in the mind of a father who left his wife without getting to know his daughter, and we see the processes in the mind of a daughter suffering from something she doesn't understand or want to accept. Despite these difficult stories and emotions, this book feels like a happy book. Throughout I felt the calmness of Vilnius as they attempted to reconcile with one another.

Oddly the only book I can think to compare this to in the way of tone is The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno (which I reviewed last September here). I cannot put my finger on why but both books ooze a sense of calmness in the middle of a family storm. Both have a place on my list of favourite books. There's not much more I can say. This was such a beautiful book that I can't wait to read again.

You can follow Rufi Thorpe on Twitter with her handle @RufiThorpe and read some of her essays at rufithorpe.com. As well as many national publications, Rufi is a columnist for the amazingly hilarious and thought-provoking McSweeneys Internet Tendency, one of my favourite online places to reside. I'd really recommend you give it a look if strange satire and postmodern writing is your thing.

Dear Fang, With Love was published in paperback by Corsair on 2nd June. Pick up your copy of this whirlwind book ASAP.

M x

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