One of my favorite books. This is haunting, beautiful, magical and shocking. This is one of those books that is best appreciated by those who are past their 20s. You look back on your life and wonder about the what might have been, what ifs, if onlys. You know that one moment or one event can change the whole course of your entire life.
This tells the story of intense love between Linda and Thomas who first meet as high school teenagers then as young adults and much later as adults just past their prime when both have established themselves in similar careers. He's nationally known poet and she too is a poet, but more moderately successful. The story goes backward from the present to the past. It starts when they meet again in their 50s at a literary conference where both are speakers. They meet only about three times in their adult lives, but they have a deep, believable connection to each other. Their respective spouses, the children they love, and other events keep them apart though they never lose their love for each other. I enjoyed the love story. It's not overly sweet or cloying. I've read a lot of love stories over the years, but this one has stayed with me because it's so surprising and so haunting in its longing. I don't know if I believe in soulmates, but this story makes me want to believe in it. Thomas and Linda are truly two halves of a whole.
Shreve writes with clarity and sparse prose. This isn't some predictable mass market romance novel. The story comes together at the last page and boy, what a stunner it is.
You'll be amazed. What other story ties everything together in the last page and a half. You're either going to love or hate the ending. There's no middle ground.
Now I like the ending. I can take a sad ending, after all stories can't all have happy endings, but the ending of this book comes isn't sad. It's a complete shocker. You'll say to yourself, "Wait! Did I read that right?" You go and read the book again to make sense of it. You realize why the book was written in reverse because that's the only way to make sense of the ending. I loved the ending, but it's painful. At first I was shocked then angry then ultimately I realized the beauty of it. That's all I can say without giving it away. I have to give Shreve credit for the ending. Not many writers can pull off such a surprise. You DO NOT SEE the ending coming AT ALL. You think it might end one of two ways, but no..there's a third option you never saw although it's hinted at here and there. Whether you love the ending or hate it, not many authors can surprise you at the very last page of the story. It's the hallmark of a great writer
I don't want to go on and on about the ending for I fear I might turn away someone from an otherwise great love story. Please read the book, but don't be tempted to read the ending first no matter how tempted you are. Allow yourself to be transported to the very end the way Shreve intended.