Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: literary fiction, women’s fiction
Length: 496 pages
Date Released: April 22, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
When Olivia Berrington gets the call to tell her that her best friend from college has been killed in a car crash in New York, her life is turned upside down. Her relationship with Sally was an exhilarating roller coaster, until a shocking betrayal drove them apart. But if Sally really had turned her back, why is her little girl named after Olivia?
As questions mount about the fatal accident, Olivia is forced to go back and unravel their tangled history. But as Sally’s secrets start to spill out, Olivia’s left asking herself if the past is best kept buried.
Sally Atkins was a star who burned bright and hot, and then flamed out. But The Last Time I Saw You both is and isn’t Sally’s story, because Sally isn’t the “I” in that title, she’s the “you”. The story begins with her death, and goes both backwards and forwards in time; back into Olivia Berrington’s memories of their intense friendship at university, and forward into a future that continues without Sally in it.
This is Olivia’s story, and the story of everyone who lived and died in the reflected glow cast by Sally’s incandescence.
Sally’s bright light has gone out. The story begins with her death in an auto accident. Her survivors are left with questions about how, and why, and can they go on? Especially Olivia, who used to be so close to Sally, and for Sally’s husband William and daughter Madeleine. Their world has gotten immeasurably darker.
But also become considerably more even-keeled. When Sally was up, she was all the way up. When she was down, she was completely down. When she loved you, you were the only person in her world, and when you fell out of favor, you were cast into the pit of oblivion.
Sally was bipolar, and she never revealed what she perceived as her weakness to anyone. She always cast every moment of her life as though she was the star, and any others were supernumeraries. And for those who weren’t willing to be hangers on in her life, she lied and she played off one against another, until she emerged as someone else’s victim. In reality, everyone was her victim, including herself.
And even though this is Olivia’s story, it is impossible not to focus on Sally.
In the wake of Sally’s death, Olivia finds herself dredging through her memories at the request of Sally’s husband William. He’s looking for good things to hold onto, in order to keep alive a vision of the perfect Sally who never was. All that Olivia finds is the relationship that set the pattern for her life. A pattern of settling for scraps and hoping she can placate the person she has allowed to control her life and well-being, and a pattern that she finally realizes she must break for good.
Olivia searches for the truth about Sally, but in the end, she also finds out the truth about herself.
Escape Rating A-: I picked this story because of it’s theme of losing touch with people who used to be close friends, and the reasons that we let people go. It was a concept that resonated.
But what kept me enthralled was watching Olivia’s slow transformation, as she continues to learn from her relationship with Sally, and all the ways in which the intense insanity of that relationship continues to influence, even control. her life.
At first, I kept looking for one big betrayal to explain how Olivia and Sally lost touch, but as I kept following Olivia’s story, I came to realize that it was much more than that. It wasn’t a single event, but a pattern of betrayals over and over, and Olivia finally broke free. But only after she’d sacrificed a bit of her soul.
I felt for Olivia, the way that she kept repeating her pattern with Sally, much in the same way that a victim returns to their abuser, or recreates an abusive relationship. She kept trying to understand the other person, instead of figuring out that the person she needed to take care of was herself.
Although this is definitely not a romance, Olivia does find romance. I loved Olivia’s journey, but I’m not sure that the story needed to finish with a semi-traditional happy ending. Olivia figuring out who she needed to be would have been more than enough for me.