Verdict: DENNIS AND GREER is a beautifully written memoir of love found and lost.
DENNIS AND GREER, edited by Molly Gould, is a collection of love letters from the Vietnam War era that chronicles the evolving romance and relationship of the two titular characters. Gould, Greer’s daughter, inherited the letters and journals upon her mother’s death and fashioned them into this book, an up-close and deeply personal account of a relationship we know is doomed from the beginning.
There’s something voyeuristic about reading somebody else’s love letters, and that’s precisely the draw of DENNIS AND GREER. We see their flaws as keenly as we see their love for one another, as Dennis’ demands for Greer’s attention, to the point of joking about domestic violence, have a sour note by modern standards. But these letters aren’t meant for our eyes, and the passion these two have for one another is clear—both Dennis and Greer write without self-consciousness, and the strength and depth of their emotion infuses each letter with poetic language that’s a delight to read.
This unfiltered look at romance is compelling, but also hindered by it being a memoir rather than fiction. Of course, the story is profound precisely because it’s real; the journey Dennis and Greer undergo is one that many couples of the era experienced, as they’re frequently apart due to mission trips, work, basic training, and ultimately the Vietnam War. But because they’re reading someone else’s letters, which clearly mean so much to the recipients, readers don’t have that personal connection. The endless declarations of love, the mundane details of everyday life, and the references to people we don’t know or aren’t introduced to quickly become tedious. When DENNIS AND GREER soars, it soars, but it’s often weighted down by not having a clear narrative the way that fiction would.
The memoir is at its best when some of the details are left out. We know that the relationship doesn’t survive, but we’re not told why. When we gradually stop reading Greer’s letters and instead only get Dennis’ perspective, it’s because those letters are lost to us. When you’ve spent so much time with these people, you begin to dread their ending; you want them to succeed, but know it doesn’t happen, and that, more than the love itself, provides the impetus to keep reading.
There is genuine romance and passion to be found in DENNIS AND GREER, even if it sometimes stumbles because of its truth.
~Melissa Brinks for IndieReader