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The Last Time They Met: A Novel Paperback – January 22, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (January 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316781266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316781268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (534 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,660,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The Last Time They Met opens with two old lovers, both poets, running into each other at a writer's conference. Well, Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes aren't old, actually--just middle-aged, with a lifetime's worth of history between them. In the first section, Anita Shreve only suggests what that history contains: there was adultery, we gather, and a car accident, plus some illicit encounters under a pitiless Kenyan sun. Presumably the rest of the book will lead back to the beginnings of this grand passion, right? We think we know where this is going--but that's the tricky part, because we don't.

The novel does get off to a slow start, with an unnecessarily drawn-out description of a luxury hotel. But it picks up speed as it moves backward in time, from the lovers' vividly evoked interlude in Africa, to their adolescent years in the Massachusetts village of Hull, and finally to Linda's deepest, darkest secret. Only then does the author unveil her final revelation, which should leave most readers somewhat out of breath, and possibly even obliged to turn back to the first page and read the book over again. Shreve is a canny storyteller, and she knows her characters inside and out. (As well she might: Thomas is the husband of Jean, the photographer in The Weight of Water.) And The Last Time They Met is yet another example of the kind of book she does best--one that's as skillfully plotted as a thriller, but with writing that lingers long after the last plot twist is unfurled. No matter whether people actually have affairs like these. Reading this book only makes you wish that they did. --Mary Park --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The latest work by this versatile novelist (The Pilot's Wife; Fortune's Rocks) may be her most mature to date, as she demonstrates new subtleties in the unfolding of a complex plot. Proceeding in reverse chronological order, Shreve recounts the obsessive love between poets Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes; theirs is a highly charged affair, though they connect only three times in 35 years. The novel's three sections ("Fifty-Two," "Twenty-Six" and "Seventeen") refer to Linda's ages when she meets and later encounters Thomas first (last in the book's structure) as a troubled teen near Boston with "only indistinct memories of her mother and no real ones of her father"; then in Kenya, where Linda has joined the Peace Corps and Thomas's wife, Regina, is working with UNICEF; and finally at a literary festival in Toronto where both characters, unbeknownst to each other, are guest speakers. Though each of the novel's segments is intensely powerful, the cumulative effect is especially wrenching, as the reader knows what Linda and Thomas have yet to experience. Their Africa encounter is especially gripping, since both characters are torn between their mutual passion and their love for their spouses. (Linda has also married, and Regina's announcement of her pregnancy adds further tension.) Shreve's compassionate view of human frailties a recurring theme in much of her work is at its most affecting here, as she meticulously interweaves past and present with total credibility. Her fluid narrative perfectly mirrors her protagonists' evolving temperaments and viewpoints, while her overall restraint serves to intensify the novel's devastating conclusion. (Apr.) Water, starring Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley, is due in theaters later this year.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. "I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never."

Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejections from magazines for her short stories ("I really could have," she says), she published her early work in literary journals. One of these stories, "Past the Island, Drifting," won an O. Henry prize. Despite this accolade, she quickly learned that one couldn't make a living writing short fiction. Switching to journalism, Shreve traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived for three years, working as a journalist for an African magazine. One of her novels, The Last Time They Met, contains bits and pieces from her time in Africa.

Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 14 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot's Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, Body Surfing, Testimony,and A Change in Altitude.

In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. In 1999, she received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey, and The Pilot's Wife became the 25th selection of Oprah's Book Club and an international bestseller. In April 2002, CBS aired the film version of The Pilot's Wife, starring Christine Lahti, and in fall 2002, The Weight of Water, starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn, was released in movie theaters.

Still in love with the novel form, Shreve writes only in that genre. "The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming," she says. "A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike."

Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.

Customer Reviews

I was "SHOCKED" to say the least after reading the last page of the book.
It's like the author just tacked on a "suprise" ending for no reason, even though it completely contradicts any logical reading of the rest of the book.
Kaley Quinn
I have read almost all of Anita Shreves books, and this by far is one of the best.
Jeanne Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend reading Anita Shreve's "THE WEIGHT OF THE WATER" before you begin "THE LAST TIME WE MET." But whatever you do, definitely read them both. The stories are surprisingly intertwined with characters taking us through the most important times of their lives. Lives filled with hope, love, loyality, success, betrayal, loss, and deep regrets. Both endings will leave you feeling stunned. You will, no doubt, find yourself wanting to re-read the last chapters over and over again. When a book grabs you this way, I consider it a successful story told (despite how I feel about the outcome). Anita Shreve is a wonderful author and "THE LAST TIME WE MET" (as well as "THE WEIGHT OF THE WATER") is an excellent read. Don't pass these two books up!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I adored this book, and there aren't many that merit that description. Shreve had me in the palm of her hand until the end, then I reread the first third and picked up on oh-so-many clever foreshadowings and outright CLUES to what had happened to Thomas. Brilliant, brilliant writing. It's not a book about adultery at all, but about how a tragic loss can color a life forever, burden a life with guilt that cannot be assuaged. "Does time help?" Linda asks. "No," Thomas answered, speaking with the conviction of "long experience." Oh, my. Now I see.
Not to be missed--but it requires an effort on the part of the reader.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on June 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anita Shreve's latest novel presents some problems for the reviewer. Reading it, I found certain elements of character, motivation and maturity baffling, even annoying, despite the beauty of the writing. The surprise ending, however, cast these apparent flaws in a new light, giving subtle, poignant meaning and transforming the story. But it's impossible to discuss any of this without giving away the ending.
A story of intense, enduring, but frustrated love, the novel begins with the two protagonists in their early fifties, meeting at a literary festival after an interlude of some years. Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes, both poets, are free now, for the first time since their high school romance ended over an automobile accident.
Widowed, Linda had a long, happy marriage while Thomas, twice divorced, never fully recovered from the death of his 6-year-old daughter, which occurred at the end of Shreve's "Weight of Water." Thomas was the husband of that book's protagonist and there are numerous references to the shipboard events of that novel from Thomas' point of view. (I wondered: Did Shreve have this novel in mind even then; is that why she killed off the little girl, an abrupt shock which seemed pointless in that context?)
The first section is told from Linda's point of view - the reunion, her cautious renewal of this first love, reflections on her marriage, problems with her children. In sharp, anguished exchanges, they revisit the events that tore them apart. Linda, still harboring resentments, seems brooding, tentative, a little irritating.
"He seemed taken aback by the contest. She knew what later she would mind this the most; that she'd become common in her anger. That in an instant, she'd reinvented herself as a shrew.
Read more ›
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By "kpiziks" on March 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I fell in love with the love story between Linda and Thomas in the first third of the book. I personally found the writing in the middle section about Africa a bit dull (there seemed to be quite a bit of pontification), but was still drawn to the story and cared very much about the characters. The last third I flew through, it answered so many questions, but the last page pulled the rug out from under my feet. I felt cheated that I'd given my time and energy to care about this story just to find out that it ended before it even began. In fact, so much so that it's highly unlikely that I will read this author again.
I also agree that the italicized dialogue was, for some reason, difficult to follow.
I'm giving 3 stars to a book that I would have given 4 stars to had the ending not been so disappointing.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anita Shreve's latest novel, "The Last Time They Met," has three parts. It starts out with a bittersweet reunion between two former lovers, Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes, both of whom are published poets. Linda and Thomas meet at a literary festival where they will both read from their works. Now in their fifties, Linda and Thomas first fell in love in high-school, but they parted and lost touch for ten years. When they were in their twenties, they met by chance while they were both living in Africa. As the novel opens, Linda and Thomas get together to catch up on how they have spent the last several decades of their lives, and they analyze their painful past. The next two parts of the book go back in time, first to their days together in Africa, and then to the time when Linda and Thomas were teenagers in love. Shreve sets up the book like a jigsaw puzzle. We get to know Thomas and Linda, and little by little we understand how and why they made the choices they did in life. Shreve explores many themes in this book, such as how some devastating experiences can never be put behind us and how words are often inadequate to accurately capture the full range and depth of human emotion. Although the ending is shocking and unanticipated, it is also powerful and gripping. Shreve is an expert on how people, sometimes unwittingly and at other times, consciously, destroy one another and themselves.
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