Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino: Book Review

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Synopsis from Goodreads: 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

Publisher: Atria Books

Date Published: August 18, 2015

Date Read: September 15, 2016

No. of Pages: 320 pages

Source: Kindle version

Setting: New York

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This has got to be my favorite Renee Carlino book!

Well, at least out of the three I have read by her. (Sweet Thing, Swear on This Life and Before We Were Strangers).

The blurb! Oh my goodness that blurb! I don’t know about you, but the blurb simply drew me in. It was my fantasy put into paper. I have always fantasized about chance meet-ups at places you only see in movies, like coffee shops, train stations, and all these common places. It was a common place to meet someone, yet in reality it never really happens, have you wondered about this? I am so fixated about this idea that what if that someone meant for you is just sitting right across you in a subway on your ride home, or the next person in line while you’re getting your morning coffee at an over-priced coffee shop, or that someone you bumped into when you were running late to catch your 9am meeting, those simple yet unrealistic way of meeting someone. This was what my fantasies are made of, and reading Before We Were Strangers’ blurb had ignited this fixation on chance meet-ups. I knew I had to read the story and eventually find out where it will take me. And it got me here, writing this review that hopefully could give justice to this beautiful book.

If you haven’t noticed already, I have been binge reading Renee Carlino books. The very first book I have read by her was Swear On This Life which I loved to bits! Back then I made a vow that I would read everything she wrote and will ever write. Before We Were Strangers is the third book I have read by her, and again it blew me away. I will say it now, I loved this one a hundred times more than Swear On This Life. This might be my favorite Renee Carlino book! I suffered the proverbial book hangover over this one. It was all I was thinking about for days on end. I immediately wanted to reread it after I finished. That’s how good it was for me. Before We Were Strangers is the kind of book I have been craving for so long. This is the kind of book that made me fall madly in love with reading. This is the kind of book I live for.

We follow the story of Matt and Grace (Matthias and Graceland, loved this), two senior college students who started out as good friends. Their characters are relatable and likable. We have Matt, who is into photography and we have Grace who plays the cello, just by this premise alone you could very well tell that you are in for a good story. A good boy and a good girl, well that doesn’t happen often in new adult books – more often than not it will be about a brooding boy with issues he wants to keep hidden and a broken girl with past she’d rather forget, which we all know too well. Before We Were Strangers is different, it is more than a story, it embodies second-chances and life choices. It will make you see things in a different perspective. Matt’s character has always been a likable one, he is as real as the next person you come across with.What drew me in was the fact that he was latching on to something he lost before. Grace on the other hand was a reserved girl but with care-free vibe that you would not miss. She knows fun when she needs to, and knows the weight of responsibilities on her shoulder at the same time. I love that Grace’s character was not the usual whiny female protagonist. I love love love their adventures, the way they portrayed New York, it sounded so amazing I wanted to book a ticket to New York and just relive what they did. And don’t get me started with the free breakfast as their dinner meal whilst wearing their sleepwear! Gahhhhd I want to hug Matt and Grace!!!!

The One That Got Away stories always have a special place in my heart. It was in the way that the story transitions, it is looking at it in a different light, oh the what might have been(s) and the what ifs, these are the stories I automatically gravitate towards. Before We Were Strangers pulled me into an embrace that I wouldn’t want to remove myself from. The character development was impeccable, you grow as the characters grow, you feel their regrets and pain and you share their joys as well. There was something so innocent and pure about Matt and Grace’s relationship, it was never rushed, it has its own perfect timing. I loved how the book transitions and pave its way to an engaging course where readers can pick bits and pieces of themselves along the way. It was just so beautifully written and so heartbreakingly true.

The story is told in an alternating point of view, which was something I really like in a book. We are taken into this confluence of the life Matt and Grace had back then and the life they have in the present, how much of it have changed and how much of it they regret. It was a series of choices one after another but not without fate working its way that led them to where they are. It was the embodiment that you never know where life will take you or where you will end up no matter how much planning and plotting you do, it is just the way things should be – of how destiny do its magic. And there is some sense of comfort in that thought. It was like grabbing uncertainty and giving it a hug. This was what this book is all about, it kinds of give you the taste of what happens when you lose someone you loved without knowing how or why and then at some funny stroke of luck you find them again, with the same intensity of emotions you had back then, and realising that things lost will always find its way back. This book will bring you to a journey of a love that was lost and found again. It will fill your heart with warm and fuzzy feeling, much like watching a good romantic film. This book is screaming to be made into a movie, it has the perfect setting, plot and twist with characters you can fully relate to.

I see now the writing style of Renee Carlino, she always put things into perspective. She writes books not only to tell a story but to give out a scenario of what could have been, her books are reassurance that in life there is no such thing as too late, that taking chances is a part of the choices we make day in and day out, that everything will lead us back to where we are supposed to, however long the journey or how rough things were. This realization hits me hard, and I will forever seek that wisdom her books give.

This is definitely one of the best reads I’ve had this year. Without a doubt I will be recommending this one incessantly to people and probably begging them to read it as if their lives depend on it.

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“You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-­consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t love another or move on; it just means that the one spontaneous moment, the split second that you took the leap, when your heart was racing and your mind was muddled with What ifs?—that moment—will never happen the same way again. It will never feel as intense as the first time. At least, that’s the way I remember it. That’s why my mother always said we memorialize our past. Everything seems better in a memory.”
Renee Carlino, Before We Were Strangers

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7 thoughts on “Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino: Book Review

  1. Pingback: Nerdy Talks Top 16 Books of 2016 | Nerdy Talks

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