In Sam's Letters to Jennifer
, bestselling author James Patterson departs from his usual mysteries and crime thrillers to present a tender story of love, family, and bonds that even death cannot break. First published by Little, Brown in 2004, the novel centers on a journalist named Jennifer, who returns to Wisconsin to care for her aging grandmother, Samantha "Sam" Stanford. Unexpectedly, this experience leads the heartbroken Jennifer to Brendan Keller and a second chance at love, inspired by the long-buried secret of Sam's own one-in-a-lifetime romance.
The novel opens with Jennifer and Sam sitting on the nearly deserted shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Jennifer mentions that this is the exact spot where she met Danny six years ago. Memories flood back, in which Jennifer recalls that fateful night. Her boyfriend at the time, Chris, had locked her out of their apartment, and Jennifer went to this stretch of the Lake Michigan shoreline, where a tall, handsome stranger came jogging by, noticed her, and asked her if she was all right. Not in the mood for comfort, especially from a strange man, Jennifer snapped at him, "Scram!" He ran on, only to return with a hot cup of coffee for her. From then on, they were inseparable—and Danny always called her by the nickname Scram.
Until a year ago. While vacationing in Hawaii, Danny drowned. To make her grief even more unbearable, Jennifer subsequently miscarried her and Danny's child, with whom she was pregnant at the time of his death. Before he died, Danny gave Jennifer a letter, which she shares now with Sam. In it, Danny explains how in love he is with Jennifer and their unborn baby. As Jennifer weeps, her grandmother wraps her in her arms, which, without fail, always eases the pain a little.
Six months later, Jennifer is at her Chicago apartment, which she shares with her cat, Sox. Jennifer has tentatively started dating again, even though she hates it and is still struggling to move on. Then, the phone rings. It is Reverend John Farley, an old family friend back in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He calls to inform her that she should come home quickly. Sam fell and is now in a coma.
Jennifer hopes in her Jaguar and heads to Lake Geneva. At the hospital, she learns the seriousness of the situation: Doctors are unsure if Sam will ever regain consciousness. Jennifer goes to Sam's house on the lake, where the two spent many happy years during Jennifer's childhood. As Jennifer walks into the bedroom that was always her own during her stays at her grandmother's, she sees the vanity table covered in letters. These are letters Sam has written Jennifer, and as the first letter declares, Sam has secrets she wants to confess to her granddaughter.
The first letter contains another stunning revelation from Sam: She never loved Charles, her husband of many decades and Jennifer's grandfather. As uncomfortable as this news is, Jennifer knows Sam wanted her to find these letters and that she must read them.
As she does so, taking them in small portions, Jennifer settles into life at the lake house and makes regular visits to the hospital. She reconnects with an old childhood friend, Brendan, now a doctor who, like her, has good memories of Lake Geneva and wants to enjoy some of the comforts these memories bring. Jennifer's patchy dating history of late has left her immune to the charms of love—or so she thinks. Despite her intentions not to start anything serious, she cannot help but gravitate toward the handsome and seemingly carefree Brendan.
Jennifer's supposed immunity to love mirrors Sam's experiences, retold in her letters, of her marriage to Charles. The match was nothing short of terrible, and though it eventually gave them Jennifer, their marriage—which miraculously endured until Charles's death—was loveless and difficult.
However, shortly after the wedding, Jennifer discovered love for the first time. It was with a local man named Doc, and their longtime love affair helped Jennifer weather the burden of an unhappy marriage during an era when divorce was simply not an option for many couples.
As Jennifer's relationship to Brendan evolves, he has a confession of his own to make. He has a brain tumor. This disclosure shakes Jennifer to the core. Just as she's discovering that she's capable of loving again, she must face the possibility that she might once more lose the one she loves. Brendan leaves Lake Geneva, without telling Jennifer, to have a surgery that may give him a better shot at survival—but the surgery is extremely risky, and the procedure alone might kill him.
Meanwhile, Sam wakes up from her coma, and Jennifer faces the reality of her grandmother's diminished state. Jennifer also finds Brendan and helps him through the lengthy recovery from his surgery—which is successful at removing the tumor—and the two marry. Jennifer soon learns the identity of Doc: He is really Reverend John Farley, the family's old friend.
At the close of the novel, Sam passes away. At her funeral service, Jennifer gets up to say a few words about her grandmother. During her speech, Jennifer informs the group that she and Brendan are expecting a baby, whom they will name Sam. In the end, Jennifer and Brendan have a baby girl.