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March 2007

NAMI Book Shelf:Letters for Emily

Love, Wisdom & Mental Illness

Letters for Emily by Camron Wright should be made into a movie.  If not on the big screen, it should be shown as a Hallmark special on television or played on the Family Channel.  Published originally five years ago, it is now available in paperback.

Told from the point of view of Harry, an old man who supposedly lives with Alzheimer’s disease, the novel is packed with sentimentality, love, and wisdom. It is inspired by a true story.

Because doctors told Harry that he does not have long to live, he uses his remaining time to create a book of poems and riddles about his life. After his death, the family is brought together as they work to solve these riddles.

Harry’s favorite granddaughter, Emily, leads the chase, while her estranged parents, Laura and Bob also follow the clues.  They learn more about Harry’s life than they ever knew while he was alive.

They find out how Harry met his wife and realize for the first time that he was completely head over heels in love with her.  They find out about hardships he faced and friends that he made. Although he was not a man who shared feelings during his lifetime, his letters reveal his beliefs, values, and lessons he learned.

But some things do not add up.  Emily’s mother, Laura, who served as Harry’s caregiver, takes on a new burden of medical research.

This book will hit home with many NAMI families. As doctors contend with more and more paperwork, and spend less time with patients, many families find that they play a role not just in care-giving, but also diagnosis.

Laura discovers that Harry did not actually have Alzheimer’s disease, but something else. The discovery changes her life as well as Harry’s son.

Mental illness is not the centerpiece of the book, but provides a critical turn in the plot.

We see mental illness through the eyes of the family members, and how the diagnosis affects them. We also get a glimpse of how a complicated healthcare system affects the people it serves.   

But Letters for Mental Illness is not a clinical study of mental illness nor a report on public policy. It is simply about what mental illness can mean in people’s lives. It is both honest and entertaining.

If mental illness has affected your life, if you have a grandfather you adore, or a grandchild with whom you want to share the lessons of your life, then this book is for you. Everyone will grow from reading it.

Use this link to purchase Letters for Emily now from, and NAMI will automatically receive a portion of the sale.



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