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The Whalestoe Letters

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4.04  ·  Rating details ·  2,233 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Between 1982 and 1989, Pelafina H. Lièvre sent her son, Johnny Truant, a series of letters from The Three Attic Whalestoe Institute, a psychiatric facility in Ohio where she spent the final years of her life. Beautiful, heartfelt, and tragic, this correspondence reveals the powerful and deeply moving relationship between a brilliant though mentally ill mother and the preco ...more
Paperback, 83 pages
Published October 10th 2000 by Pantheon
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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Melissa
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
" . . . For I shall be just the same, standing by, like some old still-growing tree, her rustle lost in fall but found again come spring.

And of course you can lean on me. You can hide in me too. High above.

And when you are tired and wish to close your eyes you can rest in me. I will not let go.

Remember: I shall be your roots and I will be your shade though the sun burns my leaves. I shall quench your thirst and I will feed you fruit though time takes my seed. And when you are lost and can tell
...more
Mike
Apr 23, 2011 rated it liked it
It's impossible to talk about this without involving House of Leaves, since a good 80% of the material here reprints one of its appendices, and while the letters stand on their own to a certain degree, many of their implications only reach their fullest bloom in the light of the larger work. With that said, one's assessment of the letters depends a whole lot on how one feels about HoL -- I'd put myself on the moderately-obsessed side of the spectrum, having read the thing twice and developed my ...more
Candace Andrews
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Whalestoe Letters is a short epistolary novel (83 pages long), which is whole unto itself; however, these letters were originally published as part of Danielewski’s much longer novel, House of Leaves (over 650 pages). The narrator of The Whalestoe Letters is Pelafina H. Lièvre, and the entire book consists of a series of letters to her son Johnny Truant while she is a patient at The Three Attic Whalestoe Institute, a psychiatric facility in Ohio. Johnny Truant, Pelafina's son, is in foster c ...more
Andrew
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
I felt a bit foolish picking this up at first, seeing it as an unnecessary companion piece to the novel House of Leaves, especially considering that the vast majority of the material contained inside is present in the original book. In spite of that, it does what it does remarkably well. Anyone familiar with the original novel will understand me when I say that the author leaves details murky at best; what The Whalestoe Letters does is force a closer look at P.'s writing (some of the most emotio ...more
Jerry Jose
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I definitely didn't expect something like this from a companion novella to House of Leaves. This was elegant, beautiful and heart breaking. At the same time, it made sense and stirred confusion with the open endings and interpretations.

This is a series of letters from Truant's mom addressed to him, over her years at the asylum. It doesn't really matter whether you read it before or after HoL, or as a standalone- It will destroy you. It's painful, gets visceral by the end yet serves as a powerfu
...more
Toonerdygirls
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved HOL, but this is the book that I would read and reread. Thrown in my book bag, worming its way into my head for a college art final. She feels so much, of course she was locked up. When people say this is the heart and soul of the book, I agree. It's heartbreaking, even on its own. Both her story and Johnny truant's have a lot of nuances, so I don't see people who prefer straight forward books liking this. ...more
Timothy Urges
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Further reading for House of Leaves.
Fern
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Whalestoe Letters is a super creepy companion to House of Leaves and if you’re a fan of HoL or have always considered it but never dived in, I’d even recommend trying this one first. Every letter is haunting and dark and it’s amazing!
Traummachine
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
This book is a series of letters sent from a mother in an asylum to her son, the protagonist in House Of Leaves. Until recently, I thought this was all included as an appendix in House, but this stand-alone version adds 11 new letters and a Forward about the mother and how the new letters surfaced.

For House Of Leaves fans, I can't say these additions are a must-read, but the back of Whalestoe calls out which letters are the 11 new ones, and looking back on them they definitely fill out
...more
Lauren Ray
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 13+
The thing here is that I've already reviewed House of Leaves, and this book, almost in its entirety, is included in the appendix of House.

Where I will give this book props, though, is in the additional introduction. There are also several additional letters, but they weren't missed in the House copy, so I didn't really see them as necessary. Interesting, perhaps, but not necessary.

It's a good read and a good story that stands firmly on its own, so I would definitely recommend it. It is lacking i
...more
Jake
Mar 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: novella
I get it. I get what this was. I get this was a companion piece to House Of Leaves. But it stressed me the fuck out. It's just letters from Johnny's mom from her mental institution as she's straight up losing it, and as my mother's guilt trips get me crazy and losing her would make me crazy, this just hit the weirdest, most awful nerves I have inside me. It just shook my heart. It affected me in the most poisonous, saddest way. It was well-written, but what it is, even in its most basic terms, i ...more
Mark Stone
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a freaky good time.
Also scattered throughout House of Leaves, these are the letters of Johnny Truant's mother, written from the institution (Whalestone) where she lived, from the day she tried to kill her son to the day she died. The letters are wonderful and strange, drifting in and out of sanity. Johnnt Truant's mother may not know she is insane, she may not remember trying to kill him, but in her way, she loves her son above anything else in the world.

In House of Leaves, the Whalestone Letters advance Johnny T
...more
Christopher Trader
Nov 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
What can I say? I tried. I just couldn't get through it. Just too pretentious. I got about 1/4 of the way through it, but I consider books I can't complete to be "read" because I'll never go back to them. ...more
GracieKat
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
I felt so cheated with this book. Yes, there were the extra letters but they seemed to be just a rehash of the others and offered so little new material that I actually had to look in House of Leaves to tell which ones were the additions and which ones were the old ones.
Terri
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This was a fascinating and sad book. Told via letters from a schizophrenic woman to her son, they tell a story in an emotionally rewarding way.
Patricia
SO GOOD.
Nikolas Kalar
I read most of these letters some years ago in the mothership work House of Leaves. I loved them then and I love them now. Pelafina may be the most coherent moment of Danielewski's monumental masterwork of a debut, and she is, in fact, a character in a mental facility.

These letters are short, sweet, beautiful, frightening, sorrowful, dolorous, and yearning. To the very depth of everything, a human can be. And Pelafina writes them so wonderfully, theatrically, full of life and strewn with humanit
...more
Craig Page
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jay
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
If you are familiar with House of Leaves, you might slightly enjoy this. But it doesn't stand on its own. It adds 11 new letters to the mix of letters from Pelafina to Johnny in HoL, and while they offer an additional glimpse at Pelafina's manic/depressed cycles, it does nothing in terms of adding to the story. The only new letters that really feel like they add something are December 23 and December 24, 1988; the other 9 either don't add much are rely on HoL's warping text to seem important. ...more
Sebastian Visser
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, heartfelt, and tragic, this correspondence reveals the powerful and deeply moving relationship between a brilliant though mentally ill mother and the precocious, gifted young son she never ceases to love. Originally contained within the monumental House of Leaves, this collection stands alone as a stunning portrait of mother and child.
Ember
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's a neat little side piece to House of Leaves. It goes into more detail about Johnny's mother and you learn who she is and you gain tid bits of information about Johnny. The letters can be quite intense. ...more
Diane Bator
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very engrossing book of stories that come from The House of Leaves.
I found House of Leaves so wildly bizarre and interesting that I had to get the second book to continue the saga.
I do recommend it but be prepared for possibly the oddest, most compelling series you've ever read.
...more
Helene
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this book without having read “House of Leaves”, but I found it extreamly intriguing!
It had so many aspects of the whole experience, and you only got to read her side of it all. I really enjoyed it!!
cameron
I’m counting that I read this because it was in the end of House of Leaves but these letters made me genuinely sad so good job ...more
Kelli Poward
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed watching the rise and fall of her sanity. The letters were well written and the story entertaining. I loved loved pages 46-48
Alice
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't know why, but I thought there would be more unique material. ...more
Rebecca Zavala
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful
Odd
Unusual
Gripping
Dark
Horrid
Sad
Wen Keong Tan
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Might change the rating after I finish reading House of Leaves
Valentina
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great both as a standalone and as a part of House of leaves. These letters strongly impacted me when i read them. I think about them often.
Jarred Schwartz
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Crazy story telling never read anything close to it
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Mark Z. Danielewski is an American author best known for his books House of Leaves, Only Revolutions, The Fifty Year Sword, The Little Blue Kite, and The Familiar series.

Danielewski studied English Literature at Yale. He then decided to move to Berkeley, California, where he took a summer program in Latin at the University of California, Berkeley. He also spent time in Paris, preoccupied mostly w
...more

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“Never fear your fear. I am close. Don't forget. I am here. In losing your vision enlighten your own undertakings. In leaving our vision enlighten your own understanding.
Always.
I think you get this way of mine. Do you? I hope so. But if you don't it's no matter.
For I shall be just the same, standing by, like some old still-growing tree, her rustle lost in fall but found again come spring.
And of course you can lean on me. You can hide in me too. High above.
And when you are tired and wish to close your eyes you can rest in me. I will not go.
Remember: I shall be your roots and I will be your shade though the sun burns my leaves. I shall quench your thirst and I will feed you fruit though time takes my seed. And when you are lost and can tell nothing of this earth I will give you hope. And my voice you will always hear and my heart you will always share, for I will shelter you and I will comfort you. And even when I am nothing left, not even in death, I will remember you.”
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