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The Last Romantics

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2019)
“The greatest works of poetry are the stories we tell about ourselves."

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house, with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden-boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and to ask what, exactly, they are willing to do for love. 

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they guide us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

384 pages, ebook

First published February 5, 2019

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About the author

Tara Conklin

7 books1,276 followers
Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Yale University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and New York University School of Law. A joint US-UK citizen, Tara now lives in Seattle. Her first novel, The House Girl, was a NYTimes bestseller, #1 IndieNext pick and Target book club pick. Her second, The Last Romantics, was an instant NYTimes bestseller and chosen by Jenna Bush Hager as the inaugural read for The Today Show Book Club. Her new novel, COMMUNITY BOARD, is out March 28, 2023. Visit her at www.taraconklin.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,461 reviews
Profile Image for JanB .
1,113 reviews2,138 followers
March 3, 2019
Once again, I find myself in the outlier club. I read to 50% and speed read/skimmed the rest to see if I was missing out on a great read. I wasn’t.

Blurbs compare it to Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, a book I loved and awarded 5 stars. In my opinion this book was nothing like Patchett’s beyond the fact that both books were about siblings.

What worked:
The premise is good and the beginning of the book when the children were young was interesting and engaging. I was sure I had a winner. But then....

What didn’t work:
- the characters were all unlikable and unsympathetic as adults. I’m a big fan of unlikable characters and dysfunctional families. But I felt totally unengaged with these siblings. I just didn't care.
- there was an inordinate amount of importance placed on events that happened in their childhood and reverberated throughout their lives. I grew impatient and wanted to tell them to grow up, move on, and quit blaming their childhood for bad decisions made in adulthood.
- a strong feminist theme, which I would ordinarily be all for but this had a strong anti-men sentiment running throughout which I find disturbing
- a character has a blog to recount her numerous one-night stands and rate the men’s sexual prowess. Is this supposed to be “feminism”? Behaving badly and cruelty is not feminism.
- weird insertion of narrative set in a future dystopian world in 2079. I have no idea why this was included but it felt out of place and superfluous and had nothing to do with the story. What was the point?
- strong foreshadowing of a watershed event and a person named Luna but the big reveal was a huge letdown. I was left thinking “so what?”
- shifting points of view which took me out of the story
- and the biggest letdown of all? I was bored.

I’m sorry to say I can’t recommend this one.
Once again my reading friend Marialyce and I read this as a buddy read and we both agreed this book was a huge disappointment.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
770 reviews12.1k followers
February 18, 2019
4.5 stars

The Last Romantics is about love. “Real love, true love. Imperfect, wretched, weak love. No fairy tales, no poetry. It is about the negotiations we undertake with ourselves in the name of love.”

This is the story of four siblings: Renee, Caroline, Joseph, and Fiona Skinner. When their unexpectedly dies when they are young children, their mother goes into a deep depression that they deem the “Pause.” The four siblings must learn to survive on their own and, in doing so, form a deep, unbreakable bond. The book covers trials and tribulations they experience over the course of a century, told primarily through Fiona’s eyes. Throughout their lives, they suffer through great tragedies and hardships, and although they fight and have their issues, their love for one another never wanes.

While told primarily through Fiona’s POV, beginning in the year 2079 and alternating back to the past, the reader gets to see a complete picture of each of the sibling’s lives.

The Last Romantics is a beautifully written tribute to the love between these four siblings. It is an emotional and touching read. At times, it is heart-wrenching but as a reader, I was able to find comfort knowing that the Skinner siblings were always there for one another. Conklin’s writing is what sets this book from other novels about familial love. Her writing is nuanced and carefully crafted. She made me feel like I knew each of the Skinner children. While the plot is one I have seen before, Conklin tells this story in a different way. Perhaps, it is Fiona’s list of words or the oft mentioned, but never fully revealed “The Love Poem,” or something else entirely that propels this book to another level and leaves the reader with a thought-provoking take on love.

“There is nothing romantic about love. Only the most naive believe it will save them. Only the hardiest of us will survive.”

I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Angela M (On a little break).
1,270 reviews2,217 followers
February 18, 2019

The heartbreaking times during the “Pause” for the four Skinner children is tempered only by the love they have for each other and the care they give to each other. This time during their mother’s “paralyzing grief” over the loss of their father, when all they had was each other will break your heart but uplift you with the strength and love of these children. After three years of debilitating depression, their mother Noni, finally lifts herself back with the help of a relative. All of them are forever changed. Their story is told by Fiona, the youngest of the siblings when late in her life at 102, she is speaking about the poetry she has written and published and is asked about her inspiration. She says that “this is a story about the failures of love” and there are some failures, but this story for me was mostly about when love didn’t fail.

As with a lot of families, there are secrets and while they are always there for each other, these siblings sometimes keep things from each other, about who they are, about things that happen because they want to protect each other. The bonds from their childhood are still strong later in their lives and when things happen to estrange them at times, they always come together. These are characters that I didn’t want to leave behind because Tara Conklin allows the reader to be intimately involved in their lives for such a long time. I’m not going to give details about them or their story because they need to be discovered by whoever reads this.

I chose to read this because I really enjoyed Tara Conklin’s first novel, The House Girl. This was a very different story, but I looked back to see what I said about her first novel . I said it was beautifully written and emotional and I can say the say about this one which I also highly recommend.

I received an advanced copy of this book from William Morrow/HarperCollins through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Tammy.
494 reviews419 followers
January 29, 2019
Romantic love, friendly love, familial love, unconditional love, committed love, practical love and self-love. The Greeks had words for these ways of loving: Eros, Philia, Storge, Agape, Ludus, Pragma, and Philautia. This book is about love in all its forms. Love that stretches, binds, breaks, is betrayed and brought back together. These characters either pursue or embody the various forms of love throughout their lives.
A poet, in the not too distant future, tells the story behind her work, The Love Poem, which is the decades long story of her family after a two year long event the siblings call The Pause. This event binds the siblings tightly together. Reminiscent of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, I was riveted.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,064 reviews38k followers
February 23, 2020
3.7 stars.
This book got nomination from Goodreads Choice Awards and it’s not a bad reading but honestly after reading so much good fictions of this year and took a closer look to its competitors, I could honestly lower my point and gave three stars to this book.

Let’s go back to my not updated my review:

The grief makes people who they are. Sometimes its five stages force them behave irrationally and make them wrong choices.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is not only about grief. It is just a factor to shape a mother and four children’s life. When children’s father passed away, their mother( as they called Noni) preferred to act like time has stopped ( as their children’s expression , it is big “pause” stage)Their brother Joe went back and forth between denial and anger. Finally he chose the drugs for self destruction and ease his pain. He never got over with his loss.

Three sisters showed different escapism ways. Renee became strict and responsible one by being a doctor and saving lives. Caroline chose domestic life, by quitting school and dedicating herself to her children, she chose to forget who she was. And Fiona turned into herself a different version of Carrie Bradshaw for escaping from her own emotional feelings and belief of love till her last phone call with her brother that made her question her life.
I loved these people’s stories and their character development.

I felt like I was reading a biography. This book was so realistic but I was expecting to see more emotions . Maybe the name of the book and Fiona’s choice to write love poems made me think I’ll read more about love instead of reading words about life, struggle and death.
Anyway, it’s still good written book for the fans of family dramas and lifetime stories.
This is good book but not excellent enough to be my best book choice!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,685 reviews14k followers
February 28, 2019
A family saga that spans a century. A story of sibling relationships, how they grow close due to a family situation, come apart, and finally come together again, albeit not the same. Conklin does an excellent job looking into her characters lives with a keen insight and a generosity towards the flaws each holds within. The pacing is terrific, despite the time period it covers it never feels rushed. Fiona, the youngest sister is our narrator, and her experiences as the youngest in a family of four seems authentic and real. Although I'm not quite sure that she should have the knowledge she has towards what the others are thinking and seeing. That is the only minor quibble I have, though it is effective.

There are a few unexpected twists, roadblocks thrown in here and there, the things many of us have to deal with a times. Ultimately, this is a novel about love, what we survive, what we forgive and what we pretend not to know to spare another. It is about growing and reacting to the situations we experience. There is happiness, sadness, challenges, all the things of which life and family are made. I enjoyed this, though the ending was a little more emotional that I would have liked. But like life, perfection is not always possible and I enjoyed these characters very much.

"For many years loved seemed to me not something that enriched or emboldened but a blind hole into which you fell, and in the falling you forgot what it was to live in your own light."

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,845 reviews34.9k followers
February 24, 2019
Audiobook....narrated by Cassandra Campbell .....my first ‘hoopla’ book. Adding increased speed was ideal for listening.

....A few of my favorite books are centered around the exploration of siblings. At times I was reminded of “Where the Crawdads Sing”, by Delia Owens, or Ann Packer’s book - “The Children’s Crusade”, or “The Interesting’s”, by Meg Wolitzer, or “The Glass Castle”, by Jeannette Walls, or “The Immortalists”, by Chloe Benjamin, or “Commonwealth”, by Ann Patchett. I like all of these family/sibling/relationship stories. “The Last Romantics”, by Tara Conklin, being no exception.

I have great childhood memories with my first cousins: Shelly, Holly, Karen, and Moses....so I have a soft spot for books with 3 sisters & 1 brother.
In this story we have Caroline, Renee, Joe, and the youngest & (mostly-narrator throughout), is Fiona.
.....Cassandra Campbell is a skillful-easy-on-the ears-voice narrator: mini famous in the Audiobook world, ....she added greatness to this already wonderful novel.

The Skinner siblings hardly had time to breathe before a new conflagration broke out. Our heart breaks for the difficulties they endured - especially when they were young children. .....yet I also loved the way these children all dealt with their obstacles.... THEY PLAYED LIKE REAL CHILDREN DO.
A couple of my favorite scenes was when Joe taught Fiona to swim. Their childhood playing in the outdoors - the way neglected children do, reminds me of my own growing years. I too, had the rug swept out from under me instantly when my father died - and my mother cut herself off from my older sister and I. Same for these children: their father dies, and their mother is emotionally vacant ( for a few years anyway - during what the siblings call “The Pause” period of their lives).

These kids were survivors. They had to be. I understood. When they become adults - we see the lifelong broken scars more clearly.... whether successful or not.
The one constant thread for these siblings is the love between them. They shared something very unique growing up - that only they knew first hand.

What makes this book exceptional, is that the prose is breathtaking lyrical and captivating. The easing flow of the storytelling makes this a novel that’s hard to put down.

I look forward to reading other books by Tara Conklin.

Beautiful-bittersweet story.

5 stars.

My one personal critique: I think the title of this book might have been different. Although I understand the tie-in....it leaves a ‘romantic’ visual of another type of story.
Regardless.... GREAT BOOK CHOICE
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,051 reviews30k followers
February 9, 2019
At the risk of being overzealous, this book is everything! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Last Romantics is the story of four siblings and their love. Fiona Skinner is a famous poet, and when she is asked what inspired her most well-known work, The Love Poem, she shares the story of the four Skinner siblings, Joe, Caroline, Renee, and Fiona herself.

It all begins one wild summer in their Connecticut town; what the siblings call The Pause. Something occurs that changes their way of life, changes them, and they have to decide if they will emerge stronger, or will it break them apart. Their sibling bond survives the challenge and grows even more loyal.

Over two decades later, they will again be tested, and the Skinner siblings will have to decide what’s most important to each of them.

The Last Romantics stands all on its own as a wondrous work to which I deeply connected, but I have to mention it reminded me faintly of The Immortalists, a book I adored and still think about, in its epic portrayal of siblings, family, and love.

Overall, The Last Romantics is a glorious book from start to finish. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what it is without giving it all away, so my best approximation is this book is an ode to sibling love. And I think that is more than enough.

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Karen.
552 reviews1,079 followers
February 16, 2019
This is the story of four siblings Renee 11, Caroline 8, Joe 7, and Fiona 4...who’s dad dies suddenly in 1981.
The mom, Noni retreats to her bedroom in a paralyzing depression for a few years length of time which the children call “The Pause” and the bonds grow deep between the siblings as they look out and care for each other.
The story starts out in the future, where Fiona has become a renowned poet, and she looks back on their lives and it follows all of them throughout their relationships, marriages, births, deaths...a good read.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,684 reviews2,238 followers
March 21, 2019
4.5 Stars

This story travels between place – Bexley, Connecticut; New York City; Miami; Seattle – as well as between a lifetime of years. Shared through Fiona, who is the youngest of her family this story begins when she has reached the no-longer young age of 102, in the year 2079. There are only minor nods to the changes in people’s lives, or the changes to the planet, as the heart of this story is about this family, and at its heart, this story is about life, love, families, and death. But it’s about real life, which is messy and uncertain, filled with failures, misunderstandings, words left unsaid, and broken hearts. And love, in all its various forms and shapes and sizes, perhaps especially for those with whom we have shared most of our lives, our families.

”If you live long enough and well enough to know love, its various permutations and shades, you will falter. You will break someone’s heart. Fairy tales don’t tell you that. Poetry doesn’t either.”

Ellis Avery Skinner, their father, died in the spring of 1981, leaving a thirty-one year old wife, Antonia, but called Noni by her children, and their four children: Renee, the eldest at eleven years old, followed by Caroline, eight, Joe, seven, and Fiona, who was four years and eight months old when he died. After the funeral, when people arrived at their house, Joe unleashes his broken heart on objects in the house, smashing them with all the outrage of a young child who feels the injustice of their lives being destroyed.

After all the guests have left, and days have passed, and the casseroles stop appearing as if by magic, left on their doorstep, when people stop looking at them with their concerned expressions, they move to a smaller house, with money now being a concern. The days of Noni’s “resting” begin. The first time was for three days, and then six days, and it becomes a regular way of life, with Renee taking over the routine of running the household. ”The Pause” as they came to refer to it, a temporary moment that turned into years, but they waited.

”…but this is a story about the failures of love, and the Pause was the first.”

And, I suppose, it is a story that includes the failures of love, which are really the failures of being human. Our failure to understand that it is we who fail love, that fail in our attempts to truly love by allowing other feelings to overrule in the moments of envy, pride, hurt or anger.

”It’s possible to exist under any number of illusions, to believe so thoroughly in the presence of things you cannot see—safety, God, love—that you impose upon them physical shapes. A bed, a cross, a husband. But ideas willed into being are still ideas and just as fragile.”

There was a tiny dip in my feelings around the middle of the book, but it wasn’t long before I was pulled back in by this story through the poetic, voice of Fiona, the bond of these siblings, alternately intensely protective and loving only to shatter with a look, a word, so frail and delicate. The nature of this love that was forged so strongly during “The Pause” has created a sibling bond that was reminiscent of Chloe Benjamin’s “The Immortalists,” but with a stronger focus on the always evolving, ever-changing spirit of love, in all its forms, that finds its way into our lives and hearts.

”…the greatest works of poetry, what make each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them, we believe in ourselves, and that is the most powerful thing of all.”

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for *TUDOR^QUEEN* .
408 reviews425 followers
January 12, 2019
4.5 Stars.

Thank you to the publisher William Morrow/Harper Collins who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

This is a story about a family with four kids who live in the middle class town of Bexley, Connecticut. It's 1981, and their father, Ellis Avery Skinner dies suddenly at the age of 34 while working on a patient in his dental practice. Three months following his death, the family must move from their comfortable and stately yellow colonial to a gray one-story ranch house six miles away in a less privileged part of town. Their stay-at-home Mom Antonia (known as "Noni") never realized that they had no reserves of money. At this time, the oldest Renee was eleven, Caroline eight, Joe seven, and the youngest...Fiona...four.

In the wake of her new circumstances, Mom Noni had a breakdown of sorts and retreated from all responsibility for her children, spending most of her time secluded in her bedroom. A composed and sensible Renee assumed responsibility for her younger siblings. This period of time would later be dubbed "The Pause" and would last a couple of years.

The children became feral, dirty wild things that summer and adopted the nearby pond as their magical place. As the only boy, brother Joe was already treasured, but he soon became idolized even more. He had a natural born talent for baseball, an engaging personality and was physically attractive. It was like he had a golden aura about him and great things were expected to come his way. Renee was extremely responsible and was firmly focused on a medical career; Caroline had a tendency to cry easily and seemed the most pliable; Renee loved to escape in her books and had a flair for writing.

"The Pause" ends after an Aunt stays with the family for awhile, providing a strong and sensible adult presence that helps to pull Noni out of the abyss. Noni becomes stronger, gets a job and from that point on stresses the importance of not relying upon a man for success.

With the drama of the father/husband's death and the Mom's temporary breakdown in the past, the children are now older and pursing their own lives. Now the conflict of the book settles upon the Godlike figure of Joe, whose life is not as charmed as previously thought. There are struggles rippling throughout the years where the sisters' attention must be directed towards the simmering problems with Joe. Since "The Pause", the sisters are constantly protecting their mother from any family strife that could trigger a mental relapse. Fiona channels her literary prowess into a blog called "The Last Romantic" where she anonymously catalogues and critiques each of her sexual partners.

This was a very engaging and interesting read spanning decades with distinctly different characters that have burrowed themselves into my heart. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,904 reviews727 followers
March 3, 2019
1.5 ever so disappointing stars

Here I am once again finding myself at the "dislike" end of a book others have loved. As I think back for the reasons for my aversion to this book, I believe it was because of a bevy of unlikable characters, topics covered, and that hint, for lack of a better word, of what I thought to be pandering. I felt there was a definite anti men strain wandering through the pages and the topics brought forward, even that of climate change seemed to be there with no discernible reason other than they are surely in the news and very current.

Climate change is a relevant topic for many and yet this author chose only to give it some lip service. The women of the story were often transparent and the blog run by one of them was a definite nod to feminism but at such a cost to the character's character. The poor men of this book were trashed, there was not really a good one among the bunch. The fact that the mother, (another loser imho) abandoned her children and stayed in her room for three years, after the death of her husband, was beyond belief and a disservice to those women who have lost so much and yet carried on to care for their family that was left behind.

So, I am giving this one gets a "no can do for a recommendation" from me. I am always happy when others love a book and I appreciate their feelings about this one. However, I also know myself and to give this book an accolade or a high rating is just something I am unable to do.
Jan and I once again shared our feelings about this story. So to speak, we were both "on the same page" with this one.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,571 followers
May 23, 2020

Many thanks to HarperCollins for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
In the way of human nature, some people choose again and again to destroy what it is they value the most.

Do you guys remember Oobleck? That science experiment we always did in middle school but it always made a mess and everyone walked out of 2nd period cover in corn starch. For those of you who don't remember or never did it (what are you doing with you life?), it was this weird slime like substance that would get all over your hands unless you kept it moving and thus kept it solid. My point is that it wasn't a liquid but it wasn't a solid either. This book is like that. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? Thriller? I don't know but I loved it. This book refused to be put into any one category and thus it stood out in the best possible way.

So, what's this book about?
I don't know. No joke. It follows so my POV's and timelines that if I tried to give you a summary I could potentially spoil this amazing novel. Instead, I recommend you go into the novel blind. Yup, just gouge your eyes out and you'll be all set. (For real though, don't gouge your eyes out.)


Jo - Jo is one of those characters that you can't help but like. In part because he is a likable character but also because the author almost brainwashes you into liking him but not so much that you notice it. It's also paired with a dash of humanity. Jo is shwon to be more broken than he lets on. His character arc made me want to scream and cry. Sometimes, I just wish I could rewrite the story.

Caroline - Is there a word that means strong and weak at the same time? No? Fine then. I'll make one up. Streak. No. Wong. No Wreak? I give up. My point is that somehow Caroline shows herself to be strong-willed and brave but also fearful and afraid. It depends on the day. Just kidding. She does what I sometimes do. Taking on more than she should thinking she can handle it, is something we probably all do. It tends to hurt her but in the end, she always gets back up.

Renee - To quote Ryan Reynolds: This one's shady. If you look at my status updates then you will see that one of them is me loudly and obviously stating my dislike for her but that was just because she was being a b*tch. Anyway, Renee is very dynamic. She was possibly my favorite character. She was charismatic and funny but she could also be very rash and bold. Half of the time, I did like her. But the other half I was internally screaming at her for making stupid decisions.

Nomi - I really didn't like this character. I felt like she was as close as she could come to being an antagonist without being an actual antagonist. She did have her good moments but she was mainly narrow-minded and frustrating. Even though she wasn't a big part of the story, I still wished that she had been less… b*tchy?

Fiona - Fiona was the main POV, in my opinion. Though the book did switch through many POV's, I feel like Fiona's was the one that held my attention. To me, Fiona felt very deep, raw and a bit all over the place. With almost every book, I find a character that I can see a bit of myself in. Fiona was that character. Rash and impulsive yet kind and with a good heart.

Melanie - She may not be a main character but Melanie was a character that made me feel the most emotion. I can't say more because I don't want to spoil.

The writing style in this book was that like I haven't read in a while. It kept me hooked. I couldn't help but read every single word. Almost every single sentence was like a miniature cliffhanger that made just keep going. Reading this book was like rolling down a strong river. I loved every bit.

Family was a humongous theme throughout. This book took a deep dive into family as a whole. I loved the raw and brokenness of the entire family. It was so great to see how every family works like a machine. Every piece is important and they all work together. If one piece breaks down, the whole machine is useless. It sounds cheesy but it's true. My family is a mess but we love each other. We defend each other. Sure, we get pissed with each other. At any given time, one person is mad at another. But we're still alive. We only have twenty hospital visits and two Child Protective Cases on record but that's normal. Right?

One thing I want to note is the timeline. This book does switch back and forth through multiple timelines. The main three are past, the 1960's, the present, the 2000's, and the near future, the 2070's. And even though that does make the story so much more interesting, it can be it a bit confusing. So prepare yourself for the time jump.

And this book really is addictive. With the creative writing style, timeline switch and multiple POVs it can be confusing but once you get used to it, it's amazingly captivating. At the same time, you should know that this book is a bit slow in the beginning but stick it out because it gets so much better.

Overall, a very enjoyable read. I am very excited for Tara Conklin's next novel.

Bottom Line:
5 Stars
Age Rating [ PG - 13 ] (For sexual themes, thematic elements, and mild peril)
TW: Suicide, Drug Use
Cover: 4/5 ~ Characters: 5/5 ~ Plot: 4/5 ~ Audio: 4/5

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Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,030 reviews1,358 followers
August 7, 2022
The family had to move to a smaller house and a not-so-nice neighborhood and to fend for themselves because they only saw their mother when she decided to venture out from her bedroom.

Renee was the oldest, Caroline was next in line, Joe was the only boy, and Fiona was the baby when it all happened. They called this time their mother was absent The Pause. The Pause went on for a few years.

The children did well for a while, but then things started to get tough. Renee couldn’t take the responsibility, and the other children couldn’t do without her. They started going their separate ways and weren’t as close knit as they had been until one day another adult stepped in, got them some help, and got their mother Antonia out of bed.

Things looked up after that, and the family unit worked better together as everyone grew up.

We learn of what happened to each family member whether good or bad. They all loved each other and were there for each other.

I was disappointed in this book even though it has Ms. Conklin's beautiful, detailed writing.

THE LAST ROMANTICS was not an appealing read or of interest, and I struggled to read it in its entirety especially since I LOVED her first book.

I know I am in the minority for opinions. 2/5

This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NETGALLEY and in print in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Michelle.
588 reviews441 followers
March 1, 2019
3 Stars

The Last Romantics is a family story of 4 siblings (Renee, Caroline, Joe & Fiona) whose father suddenly dies leaving their mother (Noni) a widow and on her own, with little money, to take care of her children. Due to how overwhelming this was to Noni, she went into a deep depression for three years and basically left the kids to fend for themselves. When she "snaps out of it", she finds a job and resumes taking order of the home. This story is largely about "The Pause" (the time of Noni's depression) and how that time period shaped the bond between the siblings throughout the rest of their life. The story is mostly told from the perspective of Fiona in the year 2079.

This is a really difficult review for me to write because I still can't pinpoint why exactly I was disappointed. Maybe because my expectations were so high to begin with? All the rave reviews? I struggled for the following reasons:

1) The background we learned from Fiona describing life in 2079 seemed completely superfluous. It seemed as if she was in an almost dystopian world, which was interesting, but I don't understand how that relates to the siblings. I guess to tie into the theme of Climate Change that ran throughout? That sort of piqued my interest so I thought that was weird that there wasn't any kind of bridge to that world versus the world we live in now.

2) I felt like I was missing something the whole time. The book kept alluding to "the accident", Luna and again the world in 2079, but while consequential to the story, "the accident" didn't have that oomph for me because I felt disconnected to Joe. You had me up until he went to college and then it sped up too much in time with some quite drastic changes to his lifestyle that I felt disengaged from the grief the sisters felt. I knew what I was "supposed to feel", but it felt empty to me. The Luna segment also wasn't that interesting to me. I also didn't quite believe that it was the love of a lifetime. (So the part with the box needing to be delivered seemed disjointed from what we the reader knew versus what the siblings clung to and assumed based on the discovery of the box and the picture.) Then we find out a shocking detail and it's kind of just let go. I see how the author tried to tie it in (I think?) in 2079, but that whole abandonment of information felt disloyal to the bond between Joe & Fiona. It thought it was properly explained, but I didn't agree I guess.

Other than those things (haha), I enjoyed the story. I thought the writing was fantastic and I was fine with the pacing at the end that bothered others.

Overall, a good book, but not one of my favorites. To this day, The 100 Years Triology by Jane Smiley is THE BEST family saga that I've read in the past 10 years. To be fair, it is a trilogy, but I'm still waiting to be blown away.
Profile Image for Tory.
1,199 reviews26 followers
September 13, 2018
Okay, for one, I've never understood these family dramas like this or The Nest, where all the adult children are still so obsessed with each other's lives. Like, my brother and I were REALLY close growing up. But now we're adults and I trust he can take care of himself -- he's no longer my responsibility. They're all ADULTS. So there's that.
Then the vague apocalyptic future storyline...just weak. Pointless. Intriguing but never fleshed out and not even tantalizing with that -- just weak.
For this being a book about a poet, the language was lacking and boring.
A verrrrry weird choice with the partial-first person, then switching into third-person but still narrated in the first person? Disconcerting, jarring, sloppy.


I skimmed from the point where Joe died because I didn't give a shit anymore.
Okay our brother died and now we're all OBSESSED WITH FINDING HIS GIRLFRIEND. Let's hire a PI! Let's find a psychic! ??????????
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews317 followers
March 31, 2019
Intertwined threads of sibling love.

Moving, elegant and generously rendered, this author truly understands her characters, both their scars and their spirits, then weaves their stories effortlessly through shifting time periods. I was fully immersed in their lives from the time of ‘the pause,’ a time when they raised themselves to the adults they became, their childhood reverberating throughout their lives. The sibling bond is examined to great effect and with immense insight.

Is this a story of the failures of love or about real, true love, both sentiments uttered by the same character? Ultimately for me, this story illustrated that in true love we often fail each other, sometimes we hurt the ones we love the most, but it is in the depth of that love that we find forgiveness and a way to move forward. To love deeply is to often fail greatly, especially in families.

I would give this five stars, but I could not reconcile the apocalyptic nature of the present, an angle never fully integrated into the narrative, with the story from the past. This ended up more bewildering than revealing, though the essential story of family was a solid, four-star read.

Thank you Amy for sharing yet another ARC!
Profile Image for Christine .
567 reviews1,069 followers
May 15, 2019
3.5 stars rounded to 4 stars

Well, this is a tough one. For me it was 3 stars all the way until the last three chapters (starting at 85%). I especially loved the last chapter; it is not entitled Epilogue, but basically is one—a nice detailed one. I LOVE epilogues, especially those that span at least a few years time.

This is a complex story, complex in a good way. It’s a saga about family relationships, especially sisters. Though it revolves around the powerful ties of family, the desire to protect, as well as the need to know when to let go, it also strongly emphasizes the importance of individuality and respecting oneself. Though all this may sound familiar, I found this novel to be unique. I have never read a storyline that is anything like this one.

So why the 3.5 rating? It’s really hard to totally put my finger on it, but these issues come to mind. First, and probably most importantly, I wasn’t in love as much as I wanted to be with the characters, though they are written extremely well. Perhaps part of this relates to the fact that despite quite a fairly large cast, we receive everything from the point of view of Fiona, the youngest sister. If we had been privy to the inner thoughts of some of the others, I may have liked them better. I also found the timeline to be confusing. It jumps around time and again, and the dates are not always made clear. I wanted to frame what I was reading into where we were in relation to the chapter I had just read and how old the characters were at the time. I was always stopping to try to calculate time and ages and that was a burden to me. There are also several stretches where the story dragged.

My final rating is 3.5, but I will definitely take note of Ms. Conklin’s next offering, as this truly is a quality book for the reasons stated above. It’s a perfect 3.5 for me, but needing a whole number, I am electing to round up for all of its many merits. I do recommend it for the right people who will know who they are after finishing the book.

Thank you to Hennepin County Public Library and the Libby app for making this novel available to me.
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
546 reviews967 followers
August 1, 2020
The Last Romantics is a beautiful book from start to finish. I picked up the book to read it and didn’t stop reading until I was finished – it is that good. Conklin traces the lives of four siblings across the span of their lives alternating between a far future year, 2079, and earlier moments in their lives and relationships. I enjoyed the futuristic time period which only plays a small part in the story, but what I loved the most was the perfectly paced development of the family’s story and dynamics. Conklin’s lyrical and poetic prose is captivating, and I frequently reread certain passages because they were so well written. The Last Romantics will stay with me for a very long time.

Listen to my podcast at https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com for fun author interviews. For more book reviews, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....
Profile Image for Bkwmlee.
366 reviews229 followers
January 26, 2019
This was a book that I very nearly devoured in 2 sittings if it weren’t for the fact that I had work and family obligations I had to take care of, so I ended up finishing the last dozen pages or so just now (turned out to be 3 sittings, not 2). In all honesty, when I first picked up the ARC of this book and read the summary, my expectations weren’t too high, as the premise sounded like it would be yet another story about sibling rivalry and complicated family dynamics – both familiar topics that have featured in plenty of the books I’ve read over the past few months. This one turned out to be different from what I expected, but in a good way.

At the heart of the story is the Skinner family – the father Ellis Avery, the mother Antonia (whom everyone in the family refers to as “Noni”), their 4 kids Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona – living in the middle-class town of Bexley, Connecticut in the 1980s. When 34-year-old Ellis dies suddenly and unexpectedly (he literally drops dead in the middle of working), his 31-year-old wife Noni finds herself thrust into widowhood with 4 young children in tow (the eldest Renee was 11 years old at the time, the youngest Fiona was only 4 years old), but even more shocking is the realization that her husband had left behind very little in terms of savings, causing the family to fall into dire financial straits not long after the funeral. This plunges Noni into a deep depression that causes her to retreat into her bedroom for days at a time, “resting” with the door closed, curtains drawn, and lights off, leaving the 4 Skinner siblings to essentially take care of themselves, though Renee, as the eldest daughter and most responsible one, steps up to care for her siblings in their mother’s absence. This went on for 2 to 3 years, a time period that the siblings later collectively refer to as “the Pause.” Though their mother eventually emerges from “the Pause” and together, the family is able to pick back up the pieces and move on, a few defining things happen during this time period that will end up affecting the siblings for the rest of their lives. In the decades that follow, though each sibling grows up and leads their separate lives, they are not able to escape the inevitable ties that bind them together as a family.

This was an interesting story that ended up being surprisingly engaging for me. I was absorbed into the Skinner family’s story from the start and as each chapter progressed, alternating between each sibling’s backstory, this family grew on me and I found myself rooting for each character throughout their many trials and tribulations. The writing was exceptional and even flowed “poetically” in certain parts (which is significant given that the main character Fiona, whose perspective the story is told from, starts off in the story as a renowned poet) – the smoothness of the writing helped draw me into the story quite quickly and kept me engaged throughout. With that said though, my one minor complaint was the odd way that the story was narrated throughout the book, jumping from Fiona’s first-person perspective (since the way things are setup, she is actually telling the story of her family from a future time period) to a quasi-third person perspective starting each chapter about her siblings, but then in the middle of the chapter, it switches back to Fiona’s first-person perspective. I will admit that this format was a little jarring for me, especially the first few chapters, but I guess later on I got used to it so it didn’t bother me as much. I don’t really know how to explain it – perhaps it’s the way the story was told, but I felt that there was an addictive quality to the story that made me want to continue reading even when I knew I should stop (i.e.: it was getting late and I needed to get some sleep in order to function properly at work the next day)…there were times where I felt a certain “urgency” to find out what will happen next to each of the characters as they deal with the issues that crop up and what their fates end up being when all is said and done.

As might be inferred from the title, it can be said that this book is about “love” in its many different forms: love between a couple in a relationship (romantic love), love between family members – whether parent to child or between siblings (familial love), love between friends, casual love, selfish love, unconditional love, subtle love, etc. but in a big way, this book is also about the failures of love and the disappointment, regret, and pain that come along with it. With all that said though, this book is NOT a romance novel nor is it a love story in the traditional sense of the word – in fact, despite the title, there is actually very little “romance” in here. If I had to describe this book in a few words, I would classify it as a “family epic” that explores the complexities of life, love, relationships, and how the individual choices we make at different points in our lives impact and shape our futures.

I didn’t realize at first that this is the author Tara Conklin’s second novel – her debut novel was actually The House Girl , which was published back in 2013. I haven’t read that one yet and I heard it’s a completely different genre (historical fiction versus contemporary fiction with this one), but it’s definitely going on my TBR now – hopefully I’ll get around to reading it some time soon!

Received ARC from William Morrow / Harper Collins via Edelweiss
Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,163 reviews881 followers
April 14, 2020
In the spring of 1981, Ellis Skinner died. His wife, Antonia, was 31-years old and the oldest of his four children was eleven, the youngest just three. His wife, who the children called Noni, retreated to her bedroom following the funeral and didn’t emerge for any substantial activity for the next three years. The children referred to that time as the “Pause” and Renee, the oldest, stepped up and took care of her younger siblings until a relative intervened and Noni emerged. Joe, the only boy and next to the youngest, assumed the role as the man of the household, becoming his sisters’ protector. This one event would indelibly shape each child through adulthood more than any other occurrence in their lives.

The youngest child, Fiona, is the story’s narrator, even though we get each sibling’s point of view from time to time but the perspective’s hers. It also begins in the year 2079, told retrospectively from the “Pause.” You can imagine that each child (Renee, Caroline, Joe and Fiona) would be impacted differently based on their unique personalities and age, which was certainly true here. It’s difficult to single out one of them as being more affected than the other as their experiences ran the range from heartwarming to tragic, depending on pivotal moments throughout their lives. I found them interesting and thought the author did an exceptional job of defining each, so well that I could most often predict their responses to significant situations and life events. What was even more fascinating was how they interacted with each other as they aged, far from predictable.

While I was invested in the story and each character, it was mostly from my head and not my heart. I think my lack of emotional attachment can be attributed to their detachment. What should have bonded them for life didn’t and I felt that “missing,” which was probably the author’s intent. It isn’t the kind of story that’s leading up to something other than the evolution of the life of a family and I found that intriguing. What didn’t work for me was the decision to imply some climatic event that dramatically impacted the future in 2079. It was out of context without being an important element in the overall story. It was confusing and felt contrived. Otherwise, I found it to be thought provoking and relevant. I didn’t always like these people as adults but I certainly understood and found them relatable. I opted for the audio version and am a fan of the narrator, Cassandra Campbell, who delivered another fine performance. However, I think the story would have been better served with multiple narrators, a difficult choice though given the common voice was always Fiona. It’s been days since I finished and I’m still thinking about some of the life lessons of this story.

Posted on Blue Mood Café
Profile Image for Melissa Crytzer Fry.
305 reviews330 followers
November 23, 2018
Having adored the literary writing style and storyline of The House Girl, I was anxiously awaiting Tara Conklin’s next book. It didn’t matter how many years in between, as I am always willing to wait for a talented author’s next novel. Such was the case with Tara Conklin’s sophomore tale.

While The Last Romantics is decidedly different than her debut – in terms of setting, genre and era – it is just as literary and showcases the writing chops this author possesses. Some examples:

To me, adolescent hormonal Fiona, they were like great cats, sultry and sleepy, launching into quick, explosive motion before languishing again into blurred half sleep. Eyelids lowered, voices so deep, grunting at one another in monosyllables, like the language of some ancient tribe.


What I wanted to say to this man was that the greatest works of poetry, what make each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we ate for dinner last night and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed…We tell these stories until we believe them, we believe in ourselves, and that is the most powerful thing of all.

While her first work was dual-period literary historical fiction, The Romantics is contemporary with just a toe-dip into a dystopian future. A family saga wrapped in all the trimmings of dysfunction, it is a story about the heartache that real life – and living and loving – brings. It’s about mothers and sons, and daughters, and expectations, and failures, and recovery and rebuilding. And it’s about words and stories, and their importance in our lives.

Though I haven’t read Celest Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, I have read enough about the plot to suggest that readers who enjoyed that book may find similar interest here. Even the covers of both books have remarkable font and design similarities. So, while I gravitate heavily toward historical literary fiction, this novel, with its well-drawn characters, did not disappoint. I was engaged in the lives of the Skinner family from start to finish.

Many thanks to my book angel who shared her advanced copy with me, as I just could not wait to read this book! **4.5 stars, rounded up**
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,265 reviews
December 29, 2018
5 family dynamic stars to “The Last Romantics”

This book was beautifully written, with realistic and flawed characters. This sweeping novel covers a family of four siblings through challenging childhoods and through the realities of adulthood. We get to know Fiona, Renee, Caroline, and Joe. We follow the Skinners through a funeral that changes their lives. The family ties are strong in this book and those connections are forged in childhood for the Skinners. The story alternates between a dystopian future and chapters from the past for each character. A memorable tale with characters that will stay with you even after you’ve finished the book.

I'm undecided on the alternating dystopian chapters, I'm not sure they added to the story, but who am I to argue with an amazing writer? I enjoyed the author's first book -- "The House Girl" and I think this one might be better!

Thanks to BookBrowse and William Morrow for the early copy to read.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,378 reviews519 followers
September 3, 2019
I read Conklin's "The House Girl" a few years ago and found it fairly forgettable so didn't have high expectations for The Last Romantics. But this beautifully written novel about love and relationships turned out to be quite profound. I felt invested in the Skinner family and at times related to each of them. I thought the section about "The Pause" was brilliant. Framing the novel in the future (with a climate change theme) was an unnecessary distraction for me, otherwise - wonderful!
Profile Image for Karima chermiti.
788 reviews153 followers
April 10, 2019

Actual Rating : 1.5 Stars

Where Do I start, Where do I even begin. Man, this book was a struggle for me and it didn’t matter how much I tried I just couldn’t warm up to it for various reasons from the writing, to the story and mainly the characters. “The last romantics” was a mess for me and I wish I just DNFed and speared myself the heartbreak and disappointment.

I was wrong to tell you that this is a story about the failures of love. No, it is about real love, true love. Imperfect, wretched, weak love. No fairy tales, no poetry. It is about the negotiations we undertake with ourselves in the name of love.

The last romantics is a historical family Saga that follows the four siblings of The Skinner family; Fiona, Caroline, Renee and Joe as they go through life from their childhood to their adulthood depicting all the important things that shaped them and defined their relationships and Dynamics.

The first few chapters of the book were really captivating, I was engaged in the life of this family and what made them who they are and I wanted to get to know then and bear witness to what life has in store with them has. I basically only enjoyed the book when the characters were children. Also the book revolves around this mysterious person who was very important to the siblings and I was intrigued to know who that person is and what his or her role in the story was. But the moment the characters grew up, I lost interest in their stories and I couldn’t care less about them.

It all goes down to them being exasperating and insufferable. As children, you can’t really expect from characters to know better but as adults you kind of expect them to act like it, well, they didn’t. I find the way they wallowed in self misery and pity distasteful and how they blamed everything that happened to them to their childhood never once taking responsibility for their actions very pathetic and immature.

Not to mention that some of their actions are simply despicable, I mean and minor spoilers here, but one of the characters had a blog in which she writes about her hookups rating men on how good they are sexually, I mean really. And the fact that this book has feminist undertones directly linked with portraying men as the enemy is wrong. Please stop linking feminism with hating men, you’re not helping the cause, you’re harming it.

And let’s not forget the lame reveal of that mysterious character identity. Face palm, I really can’t. This book has failed me every step of the way and yet I still had the hope that the reveal will somehow save it for me to a degree, well it didn’t. I just don't know what to do with it. I just don't know.

I really didn’t enjoy the book at all, the first chapters were great, had potential and made me care but then it all went to shit. The book didn’t keep its promise for this epic tale of love and family dynamics. Instead All I got was a bunch of characters behaving like assholes and thinking that it’s not their fault. But one thing for sure, this book is very quotable, case in point:

If you live long enough and well enough to know love, its various permutations and shades, you will falter. You will break someone’s heart. Fairy tales don’t tell you that. Poetry doesn’t either


Reading this book for O.W.L.'s MAGICAL READATHON which is a Harry Potter Readathon that takes place in the whole month of April and I chose this book for My Herbology Exam
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,448 reviews9 followers
June 15, 2019
3.5 stars

The story starts in 2079, just sixty years from now, but still, I immediately thought it was headed into science fiction. Fortunately, no, although there is evidence of severe climate change all around. A centenarian poet, Fiona Skinner, is before an audience discussing her body of work when a girl named Luna comes forward to ask a question about Fiona's The Love Poem, which features another Luna from the past. This sets Fiona off on recalling for the audience her life story from childhood in the 1980’s up through 2079.

Fiona, her two sisters, and a brother named Joe, sharing the loss of their father when all are under the age of ten. Experiencing the neglect of their mother who, in her grief, takes to her room for three years. In this time, the kids grow closer and fend for themselves, while neighbors and relatives are unaware. (Could this really happen? Hmmm.) Joe and his failure to live up to expectations seem to shape most everyone's lives here, and when he is finally gone there is a falling out and estrangement by the sisters. In the end the author says that this isn't a story about "the failures of love..., it is about real love, true love, imperfect, wretched weak love.... It is about the negotiations we undertake with ourselves in the name of love. Every day we struggle to decide what to give away and what to keep. But every day we make that calculation and we live with the results.
This then is the true lesson."

These types of family epics aren't really my favorite genre, but Conklin does give us many lovely passages to reflect upon. My big issue was that the author veers from Fiona's narration into the thoughts of other characters of which Fiona would have no way of knowing.
Profile Image for Britany.
940 reviews414 followers
April 28, 2019
I love a good family saga and this one did not disappoint.

This book starts with Fiona Skinner in 2079 in a lectern answering questions about her writing. She takes us back and introduces us to her 3 siblings and her parents. Her dad dies pretty early on and provides this moment in their lives that they call "The Pause". I found the anecdotes endearing and it made me think back on memories I have with my own siblings growing up. Three girls and the golden son Joe make up this family. The book is littered with life events, weddings, children, death and pain. I loved reading about how their lives were shaped by decisions they've made and how they intertwined with each other.

Ultimately, I really just wanted more from this one. I wasn't satisfied with the ending and it felt a bit rushed , which is a bookish pet peeve for me. I like a consistent arc throughout a novel. These characters were drawn with poise and were interesting to dive into. Ending with a solid 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Christy.
620 reviews
September 20, 2019
"The Last Romantics" is a family saga that spans nearly a decade. The focus of the book is Fiona Skinner, who has become become a famous poet and her three siblings - Renee, Caroline, and Joe. In 2079, Fiona is speaking in front of an audience in a world that has some sort of environmental issue (I'm not even sure what). A girl is there named Luna, who shares the same name as the person in her famous piece of work. This spawns the telling of their family story, and alternates between the present and past of each child's life.

I guess the big event is something they call "The Pause". It is a time of depression for their young mother who mentally checks out after the sudden death of her husband. The children run wild and have to rely on one another. This period has an impact of each of their lives. Renee becomes a surgeon, Caroline becomes a mother, and Joe goes off to college to be a baseball player. Fiona starts blogging and it is called "The Last Romantic". It chronicles her sex life with many men who are only given a number. Joe gets mixed up into drugs and alcohol and later meets a woman named Luna, who becomes the inspiration for the iconic poem.

Typically I think I would very much enjoy a family saga, but I was pretty bored with this one. I would have probably not finished it if it wasn't on Audio Book read by Cassandra Campbell. I did like the parts of their childhood and the display of family crisis and sibling bonding, but after that I didn't really care. It was very nicely written, but I just found myself waiting for the point of it all or something to happen. Unfortunately... not for me and a let down.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,283 reviews639 followers
March 30, 2019
“The Last Romantics” is a domestic fiction novel about a family who’s life turns upside down when the father dies suddenly leaving the widow Noni with four children: 11 year-old Rene; 8 year-old Caroline; 7 year-old Jo, and 4 year-old Fiona. This tragic death throws Noni into a 2-year depression, which the children name “the pause”. Each child is affected differently. As expected, the eldest, Rene, ends up being the mother of the clan. Rene does her best and the family goes unnoticed by the community, until Jo is encouraged by Rene to play baseball. It is the baseball coach who realizes the children a walking from their home to Jo’s baseball games. He notices them trudging along a road, and decides to check up on the family, bringing Noni out of her despondency.

The story is told through 102-year-old Fiona’s eyes when she is giving a reading of her new novel. A young girl named Luna asked about her poem, “The Love Poem”. This Luna said that her mother named her Luna, after the Poem. Luna wants Rene to tell her who Luna was. To answer that, Rene chooses to tell her audience about her family, including The Pause, and the affect that had on each sibling.

This is a thoughtful domestic fiction read. I highly recommend it for those who enjoy a well-written family saga.
Profile Image for Renee (itsbooktalk).
392 reviews395 followers
February 28, 2019
4.5 stars
I really loved this book! This family saga that centered on 4 siblings who were left to fend for themselves during what they called "the pause" after their father dies and their mother retreats to her bedroom for several years was so well written. We follow siblings Renee, Joe, Caroline and Fiona from childhood through old age which gave me the feeling that I truly knew these characters as real people.

I flew through the first half, finding Fiona's narration interesting yet with a melancholy flow. I did find that the middle dragged for me with a few too many shifts in time and perspectives that felt abrupt at times. The final third was fantastic and left me in tears. Ultimately, this story was for me a meditation on love, despair, resilience, family, and forgiveness.
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