Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase
by Louise Walters
I liked Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase. It was enjoyable to read and kept me engaged until the end. I really liked Walters’ writing style and the plot was very interesting. I found myself anxious to find out what was going to happen. That being said, there were some sad parts and I was pretty shocked by the ending, which left me at a loss. Overall, the book left me feeling, “meh.” I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
The story is told from two different perspectives and times. The first is from Roberta, a thirty-something book store clerk, and the second is from her grandmother, Dorothy when she was a young woman in the 1940s. The story oscillates between the two women and slowly closes the gap between them and unfurls some curious family history. I loved the back and fourth (as I usually do)! Roberta finds an old letter of her grandmother’s – presumably from a lover who was calling Dorothy out on not being honorable. Roberta is torn about wether to share it with her grandmother, who is very old and has alzheimer’s. She has her own personal issues to deal with, such as working at a book store where she’s been at forever and having an affair with a married man. Ultimately, her grandmother wraps up a few loose ends before she passes. Dorothy spontaneously married when she was very young and essentially ran away form home, cutting off ties to her family. She is never able to get pregnant, other than one stillborn baby. Finally her husband abandons her and serves in the army during WWII, never looking back. Dorothy is confused, but relieved. She lives for years on her own, housing land girls and doing laundry. Spoilers: one day, a Polish helicopter crashes into her field and she runs to intercept it to die, but instead she suffers a few injuries and gets mistaken for trying to help the soldier. She is a local hero. The soldier recovers and he and Dorothy become friends and then lovers. One of the land girls that is staying with Dorothy gets pregnant and doesn’t realize it until she is giving birth. She has no interest in keeping the baby, so she asks Dorothy to keep him. Dorothy agrees and after a little while, leaves without saying goodbye. The other girl finds out and is furious, but lets her go. Dorothy mends her relationship with her mother and lives with her. This is when the letter from the beginning comes in. Dorothy’s lover tells Dorothy that he can’t be with her anymore because she took the baby. (Side note: this super confused me because I thought what Dorthy did was great. I mean, she probably should have said goodbye, but it was the perfect solution . . . what was so dishonorable about that?!) Anyway, it’s heartbreaking for Dorothy, but she’s waited her whole life for a child and she does her best to raise him well (which she does: her son is Roberta’s father). A few years after Dorothy’s lover writes the letter, he goes searching for her because he realizes that he was wrong. He’s too late though: Dorothy and her mother have moved and he never finds her! Roberta gets most of this from her grandmother before the end. It’s heartbreaking. Roberta’s ending is sweeter: she and her boss have been dancing around the obvious for years and finally get their love out in the open and start dating.
Summing it up: There were both sweet and sad parts in this book and it left me slightly disappointed. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t dislike it. I’d recommend it, with the caveat that it wasn’t anything spectacular.
All the best, Abbey