From the acclaimed author of The Girls from Corona del Mar, Dear Fang, With Love is a sprawling, ambitious new novel about a young father who takes his teenage daughter to Europe, hoping that an immersion in history might help them forget his past mistakes and her uncertain future.
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after years of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.
I saw someone talking about Dear Fang, With Love on Twitter, and knew I had to pick it up. It sounded weird and interesting, and that’s exactly what it was. I listened to this one as an audiobook, and I really enjoyed it.
At first I felt like it was going to be Lucas taking Vera to Vilnius to cure her of her bipolor disorder, which sketched me out a little bit, but it wound up being something that was so much more. It was strange, beautiful and captivating.
Vera was a very strange character to read about. Lucas was a strange narrator, but at the same time, as Vera said in an email, he was simple. Dear Fang, With Love was as much about Lucas’s growth as it was about Vera’s.
Going to Vilnius was a little bit of a spur-of-the-moment trip, but it had long-reaching consequences for both of them. Lucas and Vera really got to know each other, Vera realized that she really did need treatment for her bipolar disorder, and Lucas learned so much more about his family – and himself.
This book was full of characters that you had to keep track of – luckily, Lucas himself had trouble remembering several of them so it wasn’t so bad when you as a reader forgot one of them. Vilnius itself was treated like a character, which was awesome.
I finished the book hopeful for Vera, and wanting to know more about Vilnius. I actually had a friend in elementary and middle school who was from Lithuania, but was adopted over here at a very young age, and this book brought him to mind constantly. Almost enough to make me reach out to him on Facebook, but I resisted that urge, thankfully.
I almost want to classify this as YA fiction, because Vera is so young, and because Lucas felt so young. I don’t know what it was that made him feel that young, but he felt like he hadn’t aged since Vera was born, and he only started growing on this trip with her. I’d honestly be interested in a continuation of this novel, though I don’t know how that would work. Dear Fang, With Love left me with many questions, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’ve rated it 4 stars.