Praise and Reviews

Critical Reviews

• Finalist for the 2008 Evergreen Award
• Finalist for the 2007 in Canada First Novel Award
• 2009 K.M. Hunter Award in Literature

The Letter Opener by Kyo Maclear. This first novel came out in 2007, and deserves wider attention. A fabulous premise, and written with lyricism, intel­ligence and heart, about a Japanese-Canadian woman working in the Unde­liv­erable Mail Office (for orphaned letters and keepsakes) and trying to track down the Romanian refugee who has dis­ap­peared from her life after befriending her at work.

— Canada Reads 2009 Winner Lawrence Hill selects The Letter Opener as one of his ‘Book Picks’.

Like the mas­terful Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, Maclear creates a layered world that is both real and dream-like.… Her language and tone are just right, neither sen­ti­mental nor sen­sa­tionalist. Maclear’s instincts are apt in leavening her poten­tially dark tale with dashes of humour.… In The Letter Opener all the elements of craft are woven together into a rich and seamless tapestry. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel. Maclear is a writer with many gifts, all of them on display in this strong debut.”

— The Montreal Gazette

A graceful debut [that] illu­minates what the objects in people’s lives reveal about them”

— Chatelaine

Maclear is a novelist of promise. She has a way of drawing char­acters and drawing readers to them.”

— Hamilton Spectator

Maclear [has] a very felicitous way with words that makes the book a com­pelling read… There are piercing insights here, par­tic­ularly about the nature of the immigrant expe­rience in Canada…There is res­onance and thought­fulness to Maclear’s writing, in her visceral cham­pioning of the lost, the for­gotten, the quiet, and even the shabby.”

— Quill and Quire (Feature Review)

Maclear’s writing is thoughtful and well paced…Where she shines is in her thoughtful rumi­nations on how pos­sessions, mere things, are not always just pos­sessions or mere things. Things tell stories, often tragic ones — the enu­meration of Naiko’s mother’s pos­sessions, which include 163 ballpoint pens and 51 empty egg cartons, poignantly shows a woman slowly losing her mind.”

— Edmonton Journal

A subtle moving literary debut … Maclear handles the story with care and attention to detail… The Letter Opener is a promising start for Maclear as a novelist.”

— The Now

Nothing in Naiko’s life seems securely anchored: just as Maclear’s prose bubbles with multiple meanings. The title could indicate Naiko, Andrei, or the common object that resembles a knife… In this unusual, cerebral tale, Maclear shows her young narrator striving — suc­cessfully at last — to connect the missing pieces into the great puzzle that is the world.”

— Toronto Star

Kyo Maclear can write.”

— The Globe and Mail

In her wise and lovely first novel, Maclear explores the workings of human attachment.”

— Women’s Post

This quiet, beau­tifully written & thoughtful novel about a postal clerk & her efforts to reconnect people with their mis­di­rected mail at the Unde­liv­erable Mail Office provides remarkable insights into the mer­curial nature of identity, loss & personal history.”

— North49 Books

This is a won­derful story of memory, loss and acceptance.”

— Café Books (Alberta)

A really good book and excellent first novel. There is an attention to detail that isn’t just a neurotic cat­a­loguing, but con­siders the emo­tional nuances.”

— Electric Pages

The words are mas­terfully chosen. In this way the book was rem­i­niscent of a fine book of poetry or a beautiful painting — every word is deliberate. The result was a touching book, something that you want to read slowly to take it all in, as the pieces all fit together so del­i­cately. I loved this book.”

— The Book Chick

advance praise

Maclear has produced an ingenious work of fiction that combines rich, intimate char­acters with a nar­rative that unfolds like a puzzle box. The Letter Opener is that rare book that nourishes both the mind and the heart, at once wise and tender. A stunning, lyrical debut.”

— Naomi Klein

This is an extra­or­di­narily thoughtful novel about the travails of the diaspora of lost souls who have been the victims of total­i­tarian regimes. It all feels so tranquil, so exact, so hal­lu­ci­natory in a tidy and sci­en­tif­ically organized way, the report of such a careful, observant, and honest witness.”

— Elisabeth Harvor, author of Excessive Joy Injures the Heart and Let me be the One

Kyo Maclear’s sense of humanity is indis­pensable. It’s the basis of her com­mitment to history’s for­gotten and unde­livered. Her voice is exquisite, brilliant, incisive.”

— Joy Kogawa

For more “First Look” reader reviews, see: