Sky Lantern is the story of a man who finds a sky lantern at the end of his driveway, and on picking it up to put it in the bin notices a message written on it. The message is from someone called Steph and she has written it to her father about how much she misses him. Matt can’t help but think and reflect about how his own young daughters would feel if he were no longer with them, and it leads to him writing an open letter to Steph on his blog in the hope that one day she, or even his own daughters, might find the letter and be comforted.
Matt’s open letter is very moving. He deliberately made it quite non-specific so that it would apply universally but he talks about how proud a father is of his daughter and how much he loved her. He gives life advice about finding those who love you and filling your life with them. He explains that he knows you miss your father and that you can’t replace him but that you have to keep moving forward. I was crying by this point in the book, my mum died a few years ago and it made me think of her because it’s the sort of letter that I know she would have written if she had had more time. Matt’s letter reminded me a little of Mary Schmich’s commencement speech (that was later turned into a song by Baz Luhrmann called Wear Sunscreen). It’s a life-affirming letter that everyone will be able to take something from even if not all of it relates to them.
Matt’s letter ended up around the world, he received many letters from people who weren’t Steph but who appreciated the letter all the same and found comfort in it. He received many letters from women who believed they were the Steph who sent the lantern but even while Matt wasn’t sure they were the right Steph, he still wrote back and showed real kindness and compassion.
Throughout this book, Matt learns lessons himself about not taking his loved ones for granted. He is obviously a lovely dad to his children, but as is the case with all of us, life gets busy and sometimes we brush off a loved one wanting a few minutes of our time. Matt’s book is a reminder to always tell the people we love that we love them.
If I was to be at all critical it would be to say that at times this book does feel a little drawn out; I’m not sure that there was enough to make a full-length book out of this experience. Having said that, it is a very moving and life-affirming read and I’m sure it will offer great comfort to people who have been bereaved. I cried over a chapter where Matt wrote about loss and how we make sense of it and how our lives can never be the same. It’s the silly thing of still picking up the phone to call a loved one who has been gone for a while but in that moment our brains forget for an instant until the phone is in our hand. I did this so many times after my mum died so it resonated greatly for me.
It is wonderful that a new friendship came from Matt finding the sky lantern, and that he helped not just one woman find solace but hundreds or even thousands of people who were comforted by reading his letter. This beautiful book really is a lesson to us all that showing a little more kindness to others can go a really long way.
I rated this book 4 out of 5.
I received this book from Howard Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
Sky Lantern is out today and available from Amazon.