Published by Atria on August 18th 2015
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Amazon UK
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?
“…just the ash…”
Before We Were Strangers broke my heart, put it back together and made me feel pretty much every emotion in between. It was a rollercoaster ride that spanned 15 years and I felt the pain, joy and pure love of the characters.
Grace and Matt met in college, in a time before mobile phones, Snapchat and Facebook and when a mixed tape was the ultimate sign a person was into you. Becoming “Fast Friends”, Matt and Grace skirted around the sexual tension that smouldered with the turn of every page until they could no longer resist and surrendered to the passion. I loved the build up between them, while at times there was a bit too much back and forth; it was amazing to read a romance without insta-love. The care and devotion they had for each other, how they respected and supported each other’s respective passions for photography and music, and the solid connection they built from day one was amazing to experience as a reader sharing their journey. When things went wrong, my heart hurt and I ached for the misunderstandings to be righted and for them to find their way back to each other. For lovers to become strangers was so painful to witness especially when it was so blatantly obvious how perfect they are together.
The book is told from the perspective of both Matt and Grace. I will admit that I preferred Matt’s POV, it surprised me how Carlino captured the male voice so authentically and switching to Grace was a bit strange as I wasn’t expecting it however I soon grew to love Grace’s perspective and it did give the relationship even more depth. I adored the walk down memory lane, experiencing the late 90s again especially as we got to see the relationship from inception through to its fractured state in the present.
I felt that the book flowed well and never really faltered apart from the initial switch in POV.
The ending bothered me a little, I can’t say why without spoilers but let’s say I loved the ending but the execution was probably the weakest point of the book for me.
Overall, Before We Were Strangers is a gorgeous book, heartfelt, beautifully written and definitely one not to be missed.