The Letter is a continuation of The Christmas Box trilogy in which the author as narrator explores the traumatic aftermath of the death of the Parkin's three-year old daughter Andrea to a fire twenty years later. In autumn 1933 during the Great Depression in Salt Lake City, MaryAnne returns to her birthplace in England. David Parkin is grief struck by his wife's departure and apparent abandonment of their marriage. David, surrounded by friends at Christmastime, is inconsolable. Catherine the family's maid is particularly sorrowful to lose her long-time mistress and best friend. A friend of the household named Lawrence Flake is eighty and is making plans for his imminent death. A letter left at Andrea's gravesite is believed to be from David's estranged mother Rosalyn King. David meets a young beautiful woman named Dierdre from Chicago. They are attracted to one another although David is still committed to his wife.
David travels to Chicago after the first of the year trying to track down his mother and learn of her prior life. Rose King fled her family in California when David was a young boy. Her desire to find fame and fortune on the stage as a singer and a dancer drove her to leave. David and Dierdre are reunited by accident and begin a relationship that falls just short of sexual intimacy. David finds the theater his mother performed in and the tenement she called home. She has been dead for many years taking her own life with a leap off a bridge into the Chicago River. David is summoned back to Salt Lake City as Lawrence has suffered a stroke and is dying.
He returns only to discover Sophia, Lawrence's daughter, has arrived to meet her father for the very first time. Out of the blue MaryAnne returns to the Parkin home and David is torn in his love and anger with his wife. Lawrence passes away and is to be buried in the family cemetery next to Andrea, although it is against the law as Lawrence is a Negro. David finds a letter for Sophia from Lawrence that explains why he never claimed her as his daughter. MaryAnne is packed and set to leave again when she and David reconcile. It is springtime just after the marriage of his business partner Gibbs when an ailing David learns Lawrence's grave is being interred by a group of vigilantes. He goes to halt the action but is struck down and left unconscious in the snow. He never regains his health and dies a few days later. At the cemetery MaryAnne after meeting Dierdre stays behind to mourn her dead husband and encounters an old disheveled woman grieving nearby. She identified her as Rose King, David's mother. Rose leaves a toy carousel on the grave and declines MaryAnne's offer to stay at the Parkin mansion. Richard the narrator draws strength from the lessons of the Parkin's past and David's diary he has been reading.
This report prepared by David Fletcher