Summary and book reviews of The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve

The Last Time They Met

By Anita Shreve

The Last Time They Met
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2002,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Anita Shreve, the bestselling author of The Pilot's Wife, returns with a dazzling new novel about love, forgiveness, and paths not followed.

Linda Fallon encounters her former lover, Thomas Janes, at a literary festival where both have been invited to give readings from their work. It has been years since their paths crossed, and in that time Thomas has become a kind of literary legend. His renown is enhanced by his elusiveness; for most of the past decade, he has remained in seclusion following a devastating loss.

This is no chance meeting. Thomas learned that Linda was reading at the festival and chose this moment to reestablish contact with a woman he passionately pursued years earlier. Their affair was disastrous, and a turning point in both their lives. Neither the intensity of their relationship nor the damage it did has ever been far from his memory. From the moment they speak, The Last Time They Met unfolds the story of Linda and Thomas in an extraordinary way: it travels back into their past, bypassing layers of memory and interpretation to present their earlier encounters with unshakable immediacy. In Africa, when Linda and Thomas were twenty-seven, and in Massachusetts, when they were in high school, the novel re-creates love at its exhilarating pinnacle - the kind of intense connection that becomes the true north against which all relationships are measured. Moving backward through time, The Last Time They Met traces the extraordinary resonance a single choice, even a single word, can have over the course of a lifetime. At the same time, the novel creates an almost unbearable mystery, a mystery that can only be understood fully in the novel's final pages, in the eyes of young Linda Fallon and the young man who loves her.

With a master's control of phrase, observation, emotion, and character, Anita Shreve has written a beautiful and unforgettable exploration of intimacy, loss, and lifelong desire.

Excerpt
The Last Time They Met

She had come from the plane and was even now forgetting the ride from the airport. As she stepped from the car, she emerged to an audience of a doorman in uniform and another man in a dark coat moving through the revolving door of the hotel. The man in the dark coat hesitated, taking a moment to open an umbrella that immediately, in one fluid motion, blew itself inside out. He looked abashed and then purposefully amused—for now she was his audience—as he tossed the useless appendage into a bin and moved on.

She wished the doorman wouldn't take her suitcase, and if it hadn't been for the ornate gold leaf of the canopy and the perfectly polished brass of the entryway, she might have told him it wasn't necessary. She hadn't expected the tall columns that rose to a ceiling she couldn't see clearly without squinting, or the rose carpet through those columns that was long enough for a coronation. The doorman wordlessly gave her suitcase—...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. "She peered into the mirror. Tonight she would wear long earrings of pink Lucite. She would put her lenses back in and use a lipstick that didn't clash with the Lucite, and that would be that. Seen from a certain angle, she might simply disappear" (page 8). How would you characterize Linda's self-image at age fifty-two? What events and circumstances in her life have contributed to Linda's sense of self and, in particular, to her impulse toward self-effacement?

  2. Speaking about love, Linda says, "I believe it to be the central drama of our lives. For most of us, that is.... It's something extraordinary that happens to ordinary people." Do you agree? To ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

The shock ending and pretentious elements, such as Linda's unconvincing struggle with her faith, can't disguise the fact that the author is very short of fresh ideas here.

Publishers Weekly

Her fluid narrative perfectly mirrors her protagonists' evolving temperaments and viewpoints, while her overall restraint serves to intensify the novel's devastating conclusion.

Library Journal

Shreve is one of those rare novelists whose prose is just as remarkable as her storytelling..... While the backwards progression is confusing at times and can necessitate some rereading, it is time well spent. The tragic relationship of these two connected souls will stick with you for days. Oprah-pick Shreve does it again with this achingly emotional novel.

Reader Reviews
Connie

The Last Time They Met
Will someone PLEASE tell me if Linda Fallon is dead or not. Was the first part of the book a figment of Thomas' imagination? I liked the complexity of the relationships, but the book left me confused. What happened to Regina and Peter? Good Grief...   Read More

Lauren

The Last Time They Met
You won't find any clues leading to what happens in the end...at least not in this book. However, in "The Weight of Water," Jean says that Thomas killed a girl once, in a car crash when he had been drinking, as a teenager.

marles

ending
I thought this book was very good reading... however, the ending was STUPID!

Rachel

Amazing book but puzzling
I absolutely loved this book but was astonished and left agasp by the ending. I'm still not totally sure what happened. I was so caught up in these characters lives that I feel almost lost after reading the ending. Was the beginning of the book only ...   Read More

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