Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

My Thoughts

Compelling and evocative.
Matt and Grace’s story will pull at your heartstrings while reminding you that true love can conquer the most difficult challenges.
This is Renee Carlino’s best, most poignant work to date.

5stars

Synopsis

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.
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

My Review

A second chance romance has never sizzled so much. Spellbinding and sexy, romantic and tender, Matt and Grace’s story was easy to fall in love with. There was a certain vulnerability to this tale of star-crossed lovers who loved each other so profoundly and observed the world through a different lens. Their love felt so right, so destined, and yet, it still shattered under pretense and misunderstanding.

While exploring concepts of fate and chance, friendships and soul mates, the story captivated me from the very beginning until its tear-evoking end. Renée Carlino, who has steadily become one of my favorite authors, has woven a narrative that seeps into your heart and lingers long after you’re done.

“Once there was a you and me.
We were lovers
We were friends
Before life changed
Befor we were strangers
Do you still think of me?”

The characters were brilliantly developed. They were real and relatable. People who were bright, creative and spirited, embracing life in all its glory. People who sensed music all around them and captured the beauty in the every day between one shutter click and the next.

And because Matt and Grace seemed so real and vivid, their story impacted me in a way that made every word, every moment, more meaningful. As a result, their unexpected separation was all the more hurtful.

Graceland Marie Starr and Matthias William Shore met in college. He was an impassioned and talented photographer and she was a vibrant, gifted musician. They became fast friends with a soul-deep connection that would last a lifetime. Together, they took on New York City on a couple dollars a day, with verve and reckless abandonment. They fell fast and hard for each other becoming best friends. Soul mates.

“When I thought about what we had, it didn’t matter that it was just friendship. I loved her.”

Matt and Grace were inseparable. Their time together was beautiful. It felt predestined and inescapable. With their bright futures beckoning, however, diverging paths seemed unavoidable. But when Matt leaves temporarily to chase his ambitions, everything falls apart. Suddenly, what was temporary… inexplicably and heartbreakingly becomes permanent.

Fifteen years passed. Fifteen years in which both led lives without the other. Fifteen years of feeling confused… angry… betrayed.

“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. Thought 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.”

And then, a chance encounters brings back to life all those feelings each had tried to bury. A missed connection turns into a new chance at love. Unfortunately, their soaring elation quickly fizzles when unexpected truths come to light and feelings of hurt and abandonment resurface.

Before We Were Strangers is everything a second chance romance should be. It’s a love story that unravels over time, pushing and pulling as life twists and turns it in heartbreaking ways that make the beauty of it all the more treasured. This is undoubtedly my favorite Renée Carlino novel to date and one of my top reads this summer.

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About Renée

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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Comments

  1. evaallbooksconsidered says:

    Great review! I agree that the characters were so well developed in this book. Definitely all anyone could want from a second chance romance! So good!

    my review here

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