Living Stones: 52 Love Letters
by Dimitria Christakis
Westwood Books Publishing

"There is not a doubt in my mind that God prepared and jumpstarted the longing in me to write others and share my love."

Christakis, a teacher often called upon to write letters of recommendation in her thirty-year career, was moved by a sudden spiritual impulse to compose this impressive collection of letters to close friends and important acquaintances whose lives have intersected with hers. The weekly segments begin like a typical school year, in September. The collection opens with a letter to the author’s brother, Stephen; she notes he is the first person she thought of as she began her challenging task. She expresses her continued care for him and prompts us to remember a brother, or someone close like a brother, and our need to forgive or be forgiven by him.

As the letters progress, we see that each month constitutes a symbolic grouping. October is Pastor Appreciation month when Christakis writes to her pastor’s wife, an “unsung hero,” inviting us to consider what a difficult role this woman fulfills. November celebrates Thanksgiving with gratitude to the author’s mother and sister, as well as to a fellow “gym rat” who shares her religious faith. December is for givers: the pastor who was pivotal in her relationship with Jesus; Tanya, who helps other women in Bible study; Catherine, a mother of thirteen who, like Christakis, has both American and Mediterranean heritage. January presents people of “promise and potential.” February is for thinkers, March for hope. April is for “resurrected lives” and includes the longest letter to Bonnie, an enduring influence who has overcome much personal suffering to help others. May honors mothers in the author’s realm of friendship, while June explores family cohesion. July is a paean to “Greek spirit,” citing Christakis’ cultural heritage, and August reaches out to fellow career teachers—“we ol’ battle-axes.”

The author, a world traveler who has taught both Russian and English in her professional life, states that she was compelled to begin this absorbing epistolary work while her first faith-centered book, Connecting the Dots…, was still in the publication process. Wishing to serve God further, Christakis realized she could praise her maker and extol his love by “showing her appreciation for the dear ones He had placed in my life.” She includes particular memories that would be significant to the real recipient of the letter and, for a general audience, sustains her positive, spiritually based perspective. Each of the fifty-two segments commences with a description of the letter’s recipient, followed by a compelling set of questions based on that person’s character and life actions for the reader’s further contemplation. The letters open with a quotation, most often biblical, sometimes literary (Aesop, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost), and occasionally drawn from popular culture (Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston).

Christakis is a woman of prodigious intellect whose zest for language, images, and references dances through the pages, providing moments of amazement, amusement, and meditation. She has dedicated her erudite and meticulously ordered prose to sharing the positive attributes of people she loves, while also praising God. A letter to “Emmanuel” is the final offering, opening with “Good morning, Jesus!” and expressing the hope that she will always say “Yes” to the opportunities he provides for service. Christakis’ work is inspiring, elucidating, and thought-provoking, and would make a fine focus for sincere, sensitive people who share and can empathize with her deeply rooted faith.

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