Themes: Letters, Self-Discovery, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released: May 14, 2019
“You undid me. That’s all I’m trying to report in this letter. You undid me, Kurl, in more ways than one.”
Well, Sarah Henstra, you undid me with this book. You took me apart piece by piece and put me back together in the most wonderful way. Ever since I read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I’ve been searching for a novel that would have that same profound effect on me, and now, at last, I have. We Contain Multitudes is a perfect title for a story which holds so much within its pages—so much richness, so much gorgeous prose, so much heartrending, all-consuming emotion.
The funny thing is, I was in two minds whether to pick this up at all. I don’t normally enjoy fiction told entirely through letters or diary entries. The style tends to be too heavy on the telling and with not enough dialogue, hence why The Perks of Being a Wallflower didn’t work for me. On the other hand, Love Letters to the Dead is one of my absolute favourite books, and that convinced me to give this a try. Needless to say, I’m immensely thankful I did!
I’m struggling to describe just how hard I fell for both the heroes in this novel. I adored Jonathan in all his irrepressible eccentricity, and his refusal, despite the bullying he endures, to be anything other than true to himself. Then there’s Kurl—quiet, angry, and with so much hurt locked up inside. These boys are so different, and if not for the letter writing assignment it’s unlikely their paths would ever have crossed. Yet, through their correspondence, each discovers something in the other they never expected.
Some reviewers have questioned this book’s authenticity with regards to Jonathan and Kurl’s letters to one another. Would a teenage boy, even one as into poetry and self-expression as Jonathan, write with such eloquent poignancy? Probably not. Frankly, though, I don’t give a damn. The prose is so stunning, the emotion so raw in its intensity, and the developing romance between the heroes so captivating from start to finish, that I loved every single syllable of it.
For characters who completely stole my heart, some truly breathtaking writing, and one of the most moving romances I’ve read in a while, We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra gets 10/10 rainbows!
About the Book
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I’ll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another.
Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship…and each other.
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About Sarah Henstra
Sarah Henstra is a professor of English literature at Ryerson University, where she teaches courses in Gothic Horror, Fairy Tales & Fantasies, Psychoanalysis & Literature, and Creative Writing. She grew up on the wild, wet coast of British Columbia, but now she lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Sarah’s most recent novel, We Contain Multitudes, was nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. Her previous novels include The Red Word, which won the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction.