(I will warn you when there are spoilers)
I cannot remember ever being so angry after finishing a book. Let me preface this by saying- I know that not every ending is going to be what I expect or even like. I understand that the author isn’t writing with just me in mind, they have a whole audience and they have their own vision. That being said… UGH UGH UGH!
I do not have enough time in my life to dedicate to all the books I want to read. This weekend was a rare moment when it was pouring down rain and I actually had time to spare to finish a book that I had started reading months ago. I’m not even sure where I acquired this book or how it came into my possession, but I was determined to finish it. The book was The Last Time They Met by: Anita Shreve. Now, I have never read any of her other books and didn’t know what to expect. I had trouble at first getting started with this book. It felt too wordy for words sake. It was disjointed and I struggled to stay interested. There has never been a book that I didn’t finish. (Even if it took years- I’m looking at you House of Leaves) So, I kept it nearby and would pick it up over the last few months, trying to get reengaged. This Saturday, I finally did. I was excited. Now, I knew ahead of time that there was some twist at the very end. I read some Amazon.com reviews. Perhaps, this is what was fueling my interest in the book. Maybe I was more interested to see if I could figure out just what this twist was. I didn’t.
SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT, DON’T CONTINUE READING! However, if you want to spare yourself from reading this book, read on people, read on!
The book is divided into three parts: When the main character, Linda, is in her 50’s, 20’s & 17. Like I said before, I really struggled to become engaged in the first part. I was thrown off by the fact that the dialog was written in italics and more like a conversation in your head than one with another person. (And that folks, is the ONLY clue that I picked up on) Once I adjusted to that, it still seemed to ramble on about this hotel room.
Part One: Linda in her 50’s
It starts out by describing Linda and her life so far. You find out that she was married, has two kids and is a writer that has finally had some major work published. She is at a writers conference and is anxiously waiting to run in to him, the love of her life from when she was 17. This first part sets you up, so that you know that a terrible accident happened (you don’t know exactly what) when they were 17 and they were separated. You are told that they both had married and were reconnected in their 20’s while both in Africa. Linda had married a man name Vincent and Thomas (the love of her life) had married a Jean, then a Regina. (It’s really difficult to discern whether or not Jean and Regina are two different wives or the same and Jean is a nickname of Regina.) You also learn of this terrible tragedy about Thomas’ daughter who died at age five. This whole part seems to relive one tragedy after another only for them to eventually hook-up and it seems, at the end of this part, they might get another chance at their love after all these years and suffering.
Part Two: Linda in her 20’s
This part takes place in Africa. Now, remember that we are working backwards in time here. Thomas is in Africa because his wife, Regina is there on a research grant. He runs into Linda. Because of course she is randomly in Africa at the same time he is after not speaking for 10 years, but I’m ok with having some literary leeway. Anyways, she is married to Peter. (What happened to Vincent? Has she not met him yet? Why weren’t we told about Peter in the first part?) They meet, rekindle their love and decided to tell their spouses and be together. Right before this happens, Regina tells Thomas that she is pregnant. Linda gets drunk and tells Regina and Peter about her and Thomas. Now remember, Regina and Thomas remain married and have their child.
At this point, I’m invested in the book. I know that the big accident that tore them apart in the first place is coming up and in my mind, I already have them together in their later years. But, I’m still intrigued on what this BIG TWIST is going to be.
Part Three: Linda is 17
This part goes on to explain how her mom died and she is left to live with her poor, Catholic aunt and six cousins. The aunt’s boyfriend molests the girl when she is younger and the aunt thinks it’s Linda’s fault and sends her off to Catholic Boarding School for misguided, Catholic girls. Eventually, she returns to live with her aunt for her senior year of high school. That’s where she meets Thomas. They fall in love, spend tons of time together. Towards they end, you see that Linda is approached by her guidance counselor and told that she can get a scholarship to college. She is also told by the local Catholic priest that what happened to her wasn’t her fault. So, we are set-up with Thomas and Linda celebrating all of these things, including that they have found their true love and can see how amazing their future is going to be together. This leads to a car ride and some drinking. Then the car accident. We knew that this was coming and knew that they were going to be ripped apart, but what could this twist possibly be??? Cue your best Sixth Sense moment. Yes, it turns out she was dead the whole time!! WTF??? It makes absolutely no sense!
In the end, they are celebrating, get int he car wreck and Linda is shown to be thinking about how your life is supposed to flash before your eyes when you die. Only, she says, it wasn’t her past life, it was her perfect future life with Thomas. HOW IN THE HELL IS ALL THAT TRAGEDY A PERFECT LIFE? I just don’t get it. If, when she gets into the car accident, she is in the midst of celebrating her and Thomas’ amazing future, why would these other two sections of torment be what flashes before her eyes? Can anyone explain this to me?
I wish I could turn back time and never had read this book!