These last few weeks have been all about reading things other than what I was supposed to be reading. I mean, I try to not be too restrictive with myself—too much ‘you should read this’ and I won’t want to read anything. However, I really wanted to read the new Follett this week…but the timing was all wrong. So, when I got offered this one as a ‘skip-the-line’ loan from one of my libraries, I jumped at it.
And I ended up being really glad I did. This was just the sort of propulsive plot I was after, on the heels of probably far too many rom-coms.
A “gripping” (Entertainment Weekly) mystery about a woman who thinks she’s found the love of her life—until he disappears.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
So, this book is all about relentless pace. There is something *happening* on almost every page, and the happenings are all moving the plot forward. It’s the sort of book where you have a very ordinary protagonist who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and has to find a way, if not out, at least through. It’s the kind of book that Harlan Coben excels at, and John Grisham used to. It’s the kind of book where you are never afraid, not really…but you are always, always, always vaguely nervous.
As much as the book is about plot, and it is, it’s also about relationships. The relationship between our heroine, Hannah and her secretly-fled husband, Owen, is largely told in brief flashbacks. These flashbacks are critical to understanding their relationship, and to understanding why Hannah will go to the lengths she goes to to get answers. There is also a best friend that Hannah relies on throughout, who never lets her down, not for one minute. The idea that Hannah might lose her at one point was quite distressing. In the back of my mind, as I was reading, I was doing all these plot gymnastics, as though I could stop their separation simply via the power of my own participation in the narrative.
The most important relationship, though, is between Hannah and her stepdaughter, Bailey. Bailey has lost much as the book begins, and those losses are quickly compounded. And now she finds herself on the run with the last person she wants to be with—the stepmother she never wanted. She does not like Hannah. Hannah is the last person she wants to depend on.
But, as with all of these books, depend on her she must, and the growth of their relationship is slow, organic and believable. By the end of the book, facing unimaginable choices, they have settled in to their new roles as allies. They are, quite literally, all each of them has left.
This was my first Laura Dave book. It will not be my last. Her prose is spare, straightforward and serves the plot first. However, her deft handling of the Hannah/Bailey relationship is also quite lovely.
I thought it was just grand.