By: Kim Fay

Published: February 8, 2022

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons


A quick read that draws you into the lives of two very different women through their correspondence over the course of 2 1/2 years.

On October 8, 1982, Joan, an avid reader of the column “Letter from the Island” in Northwest Home & Life magazine, sends a letter to the author to congratulate her on her column’s ten-year anniversary and praise her most recent writing. Along with the letter, Joan includes a packet of saffron as a thank you along with a recipe for steamed mussels using the saffron.

Imogen is flattered to receive some “fan mail” and writes back right away. Soon a pen pal friendship blossoms between a young 20-something woman and a magazine columnist in her late 60s. As their lives travel through the Cuban Missle Crisis to the JFK assassination, their correspondence turns into a deep friendship, one with letters of shared secrets, fears, and dreams.

The gift of saffron from Joan sparks a new interest in Imogen’s husband and suddenly their marriage has taken on a new life. Joan feels the spark of love for someone that is outside society’s norms and shares with Imogen her pain at keeping it a secret as well as the excitement of a new romance. As they become more comfortable with each other, their letters become more and more personal. It was hard for me to grasp as they each shared their despair after President Kennedy was killed. They talked about defining their lives before and after the assassination and the grim feeling among their friends and neighbors. I wasn’t born until the 70s, so I hadn’t quite grasped the impact this had on people until reading about their feelings in letters to each other.

As each woman enters a specific crisis period in their life, the other jumps to offer support without judgment or reproach. Even across the miles, their friendship grows stronger as they travel through joyous and painful experiences in such a short period of time.

Since this is told only through letters, the novel reads quite quickly and feels a bit voyeuristic as we read the personal thoughts of these two women. Be prepared for big feelings as the novel comes to a close. You will be sad to leave the story of Joan and Imogen. Readers who love novels of glorious food experiences and friendship stories will love spending a bit of time with Joan and Imogen’s lives.

Kim Fay considers herself a former indie bookseller (Seattle), teacher and travel writer (Saigon), and jill-of-all-trades (Los Angeles). She is the author of the novels LOVE & SAFFRON (#1 Indie Next pick) and THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES (Edgar Award Finalist), and COMMUNION: A CULINARY JOURNEY THROUGH VIETNAM. Fay is also the creator/​editor of the To Asia With Love guidebook series, a passionate reader, tea drinker, bread baker, nephew wrangler, puppy Mabel mom, and lifelong writer. Check out her website, HERE.

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
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