Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

01 here How does one put into words a book like this? It was happy and sad, uplifting and devastating. I am typing and crying, and yet, my heart is full.

This book will leave you emotionally satisfied and physically drained, but your heart will thank you for it. It makes you look closely at your life at all the “what ifs” and “If I’d only knowns.

A lot can happen in 15 years. You can fall in love and break hearts. You can move up in the world and be accomplished. You can have a completely fulfilled life, and then you catch a glimpse of someone from your past, and all of this means nothing.

During their senior year of college, in an NYU dorm tucked into the heart of the East Village, Grace and Matt struck up a friendship over Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, and the Ramones. She was going to be a world-class cellist and he was going to be a famous photographer, their paths destined to diverge after graduation.

Even after an afternoon pub crawl ended in their drunken, spontaneous wedding, their visions for the future never overlapped enough for them to be together. The summer after college, he left his “ex-wife” on good terms and went to Brazil to work for National Geographic. They vowed to stay in touch and see each other soon.

They never did.

Fifteen years later, back in New York City, Matt sees Grace as she boards the J train. They’re both different in a hundred ways, and yet they’re still the same. But just as they recognize each other, just as he understands what he left behind all those years ago, the train pulls away. His only recourse is to send a missed connections letter out in the world, and hope she remembers where to look.

When we first see Matt he seems unhappy with his current life. Even though he’s an award winning photographer and has a fabulous job, there is something missing. And one night, on his way home, he catches a glimpse of that missing piece. Grace.

This book takes you into the past. We see how Grace and Matt meet and fall in love and fall apart. It was a beautiful tragedy. Bad timing all around. They were perfect for each other. They never wanted to be separated. But life and school has a way of pulling even the closest of people apart. My gosh, they had a connection. I loved watching them together. They were hilarious. They were sweet. They were meant to be together. Forever. But sadly, that wasn’t in the cards for them.

The book was in dual pov, but I loved seeing it from Matt’s. He loved Grace so much and when he saw her, all his memories come crashing back and he discovers, through discussing it with the people around him, that there were so many missed connections that he had no idea how to make heads or tails of them. The past is the past, and you have to move on. But how can you move on and forward, when you’re missing half of your heart. It was given away 15 years ago.

As you read this book, you catch things that make you sit make and wonder why. Why didn’t they try harder? Why didn’t they keep looking? Why did she not push? Why did he settle? At one point it all comes crashing down around them and the pieces are scattered. But through all that, they decide to start picking up the pieces. The hurt and loss become clear and they need to decide if it’s been too long, or can move on from the last 15 years. Will life give them a second chance?


Release Date August 18, 2015
Buy Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story

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