Author: Renée Carlino
Publisher by: Atria Books
Published on: August 18, 2015
Page Count: 320
For fans of Jojo Moyes and the movie Before Sunrise, a sweeping love story inspired by a real-life missed connections story, from the USA Today bestselling author of the romantic women’s novels Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, and After the Rain.
During their senior year of college, in an NYU dorm tucked into the heart of the East Village, Grace and Matt struck up a friendship over Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, and the Ramones. She was going to be a world-class cellist and he was going to be a famous photographer, their paths destined to diverge after graduation.
Even after an afternoon pub crawl ended in their drunken, spontaneous wedding, their visions for the future never overlapped enough for them to be together. The summer after college, he left his “ex-wife” on good terms and went to Brazil to work for National Geographic. They vowed to stay in touch and see each other soon.
They never did.
Fifteen years later, back in New York City, Matt sees Grace as she boards the J train. They’re both different in a hundred ways, and yet they’re still the same. But just as they recognize each other, just as he understands what he left behind all those years ago, the train pulls away. His only recourse is to send a missed connections letter out in the world, and hope she remembers where to look.
I’ve never read Renee Carlino until now and I am absolutely kicking myself for it. Ms. Carlino’s writing is completely enthralling. I loved this story, I loved the writing, I loved the characters, and everything in between. Before We Were Strangers, was a beautiful, emotional, and vividly stunning novel about love and second chances.
I loved the premise of this story. Matt was 36, divorced, and an award winning photographer. He’s had success in his life but as the years have gone on, he’s felt more and more unfilled. He doesn’t know what he is missing from his life but he wants to find it. One day he happens to take the subway and he’s sees Grace Starr. Grace was his one-time best friend, his college girlfriend, and truly the love of his life. Their eyes only meet briefly, but in that moment you could sense and feel every ounce of emotion that the two had once shared.
It’s been over 15 years since they last saw each other and Matt had always wondered about her over the years. He’s never truly gotten over her and seeing her again put a spark back into his life. For weeks he tries to find her again and he finally he decides to put a beautiful ad in the Missed Connections sections.
When he was 21, Matt had moved to New York from California for his senior year of college. He and Grace met on his first day at school. They were dorm mates and neighbors. From the very moment they meet they just have an immediate connection. The two were fast friends and they quickly became an intricate part of each other’s live. Grace was a musician. She was hard working, quirky, tenacious, sweet, and was simply easy to love. Her parents haven’t limited financial means and because of that she works hard to provide for herself and give them extra help when she can. Grace has learned to do quick, quirky things to save and make money. She’s always been so focused on school and graduating that she’s had little time to invest in a personal relationship.
Their connection and relationship happened organically. Matt wanted more from her but he never pushed her. As time passes their attraction for each other become more and more evident. I was dying for them to explore their feelings and when the two finally end up together, it was SPECTACULAR!! I really enjoyed Matt and Grace together. Their relationship was passionate, intense, and they loved each other dearly. As their senior year starts to come to an end, they had big decisions to make. Both are given opportunities that could advance their careers, but it would also tear them apart. When Matt makes his decision he fully hopes Grace would be there when he returns but things don’t turn out as they plan. Miscommunication, lies, and secrets end up keeping them apart for over a decade.
What absolutely loved about this story was the characters. I loved that they were flawed and yet so perfect for each other. I hated seeing them apart but it made the story much more realistic. It gave them a chance to grow up and experience a completely different path. Even though they were apart for so long it evident that they were madly in love. I enjoyed watching them reconnect and I liked that fact that it was not fairytale new beginning. There was a lot of pain that remained between them. If they wanted the love the once had, they would have to fight for it.
Renee Carlino wrote this story with such a passion and flair. Her impeccable use of imagery made me want to be in New York. It made me want to walk this streets of the city and experience everything. I had the Jeff Buckley album “Grace”, (it’s mentioned in the book, trust me you need to listen to it because it’s amazing!!) playing in ear as I read this story. There were one or two things that seemed a bit over top, but they did not overshadow the depth of the story. This story stayed with days after I read it and I cannot recommended it enough.
20. You Remembered . . .
The present is our own. The right-this-second, the here-and- now, this moment before the next, is ours for the taking. It’s the only free gift the universe has to offer. The past doesn’t belong to us anymore, and the future is just a fantasy, never guaranteed. But the present is ours to own. The only way we can realize that fantasy is if we embrace the now.
I had been closed off for a long time, and I hadn’t allowed myself to imagine the future because I was still stuck in the past. Though it was impossible, I had tried to re-create what Matt and I once had. I wanted nothing else; he was all I could imagine.
But Orvin once told me that time is the currency of life. And I had lost so much of it. It was that idea of lost time that finally made me realize I needed to move on, that I would never have what I once had with Matt. I had to mourn our relationship and move on.
At least, that’s what I told myself.
Two months ago I was walking around in a thick fog of regret. I was going through the motions but wasn’t feeling anything. I’d stare at my new wrinkles in the mirror and wonder where they came from. I wasted more time, repeating the same thing day in and day out, barely present in my own life. I wasn’t looking to break out of the cycle in search of anything meaningful.
Until I saw Matt in the subway station.
Everything changed. I could see in color again, every image vivid and crisp.
Over the last fifteen years, the pain of what had happened to us waxed and waned. Many times I tried to force myself to stop thinking about him, but there were too many reminders. I thought, if I ever saw him again, he’d look right through me, like I was a ghost from his past. That’s how he made me feel that summer after college: someone who no longer existed.
But when I saw him in the station, his eyes locked on mine. He recognized me instantly, and all I could see in his face was pure wonder. It was like he was seeing the sunset over the ocean for the first time. As my train disappeared into the tunnel, his expression turned to desperation, and that’s when I knew there was a missing piece to our story. What was behind his desperation? What had happened to him in the last fifteen years that would send him running down the platform, his hand outstretched, his eyes full of longing?
I needed to find the answer. I had an idea of where I could find Matt, but I was too scared to look.