Mornings like these remind me that I have greed in my bones. For I crave an endless bounty of days just spent with the two people I love the most; knowing I shared a home with both of them makes me happy. However, I miss those mornings. My mind will spend a lifetime trying to uncover and understand love, whereas I believe my heart’s first beat already knew what love was capable of doing to my soul. When you were born, my mind finally understood unconditional love, and it was all for you, Annabelle.

From Open When.

Book Synopsis

Elizabeth Calhoun fantasizes about her child’s future, while her daughter, Annabelle, fights for her life after a devastating accident. The traumatizing sight of her daughter in pain spurs Elizabeth to gather her thoughts into letters for Annabelle to read. For two years, Elizabeth fills the letters with stories and advice while imagining a world where her daughter opens them after turning eighteen.

What remains on the page is a mother looking back on vulnerable teenage years, misguided decisions, and serendipitous first loves, all while reexamining who she is as a person. The letters tether the mother and daughter together through a collection of memories that Elizabeth uses to uncover who she is through the words of wisdom she aims to pass along to her daughter.

To face the harrowing details of love, anger, grief, and relationships, Elizabeth must come to terms with her daughter’s altered life journey and meet her darkest temptations. Through the process of Elizabeth’s passage through madness, depression, and pain, this evolving stack of letters collect on her desk and become a refuge that both heals and terrifies a mother. 

About the Novel

Hannah conceived the idea of Open When while reflecting ways she has tried to help her friends and family through trying times. During her time spent writing, Hannah traveled to Leavenworth, Washinton to experience life in such a unique city. From there the idea of having letter writing tether two lives together inspired the epistolary form of the letters. The entirety of the novel is narrated by Elizabeth, the mother, as she encounters advice that her daughter may need in the future while still maintaining the form we have all come to know within letter writing. The novel had its first reading on May 10th, 2019 during “XE Thesis Symposium” where Hannah presented on the Explorations of Form. 

Hannah Conwell in Enchantment Park, Leavenworth, Washington