Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Renée Carlino
Publication Date: August 2015 (Atria)
Pages: 320
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House. You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half? – M

[Goodreads]

I saw this book back in 2015 when I was interning. There was a small stack of review copied on the side but I was too shy to ask about them.

Now skip two years and I have finally got my hands on it – having no idea what the story was about and only remembering the cover and the title.

Matt is painfully dragging himself through work everyday. Not only does he have to work with his ex-wife but is reminded that she had an affair with someone else everyday as they all work in the same office. He’s exhausted of life. But then, whilst waiting at a train station, he spots Grace – someone he used to love and he fell out of touch with. It’s fate! His ‘angel’ is back. But she’s gone in a blink as the doors shut and the train leaves and he’s left on the platform. Luckily they have that important eye lock and the story can progress…. Matt craves to be reconnected with Grace and so posts it online, hoping she’d find it, and hoping they can find the closure that they never got before.

So this story is split into Four Movements, jumping backwards and forwards in Matt and Grace’s relationship, seeing them fall in and out of love. Matt is miserable. But can you blame his lack of enthusiasm when he has to witness his wife have a successful relationship with a close colleague? Even worse is that his boss is a total sleaze. But when he spots Grace, all the memories of their youthful times together floods back and he needs to know what went wrong all those years ago.

It was really easy to enjoy Matt and Grace together. They click so quickly. Their friendship is easy and simple. But it’s Grace who doesn’t feel adequate with her lack of money and Matt has to ‘come to the rescue’. This is only one of the clichés in this book, among this is the ‘virgin’ trait. What makes up for these are the flaws that both Matt and Grace have. They moved on and found what’s best for themselves. It was a relief to know they don’t become static. It’s a huge part of what I love about Matt and Grace. Romances typically dwell on the one that got away and actually end up at a dead end. Grace and Matt carved the best lives they could for themselves despite their fall out. And a fifteen year gap is definitely not the biggest break I’ve read about **Where Rainbows Ends by Cecelia Ahern.

Their journey was very predictable, and does fall very classically into the romance and NA genre, but that doesn’t take back from my enjoyment of the novel. I found it very entertaining and fun to read. It’s amazing what they made for themselves and I always love reading about those in the Arts.

The final ending was anti-climatic and felt rushed. After the majority of the book covering how they met and their time at university, there wasn’t much time to show their reconnection. It relied a lot on the past feelings. The defining theme at the end of the novel makes the conclusion somewhat pleasing.

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup