ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Dave was born and raised in New York City. She studied at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her B.A. in English in 1999. She took her MFA in creative writing at the University of Virginia and received the Tennessee Williams Scholarship and the Henry Hoyns Fellowship thereafter.
Dave has enjoyed a successful writing career, starting with her 2006 debut novel London Is The Best City In America. She has since published numerous popular books, including The Divorce Party, The First Husband, Eight Hundred Grapes, Hello, Sunshine, and her latest novel, The Last Thing He Told Me.
Her essays and short fiction can be found in numerous publications like The New York Observer, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. The Last Thing He Told Me was even labelled a New York Times Bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Selection.
SYNOPSIS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me is narrated from the perspective of Hannah Hall, a successful woodturner in her forties. Hall caters to upscale clients. She has already been married to Owen Michaels for a year when the story begins, and together they raise Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. The events of the story span a little over four days, though the timeline goes back and forth between the past and the present to explore the family’s relationship. Dave also uses this as a tool for the readers to get to know Owen, whose physical presence in the main timeline is limited.
The plot starts in Sausalito, California, which is a small town where nobody is a stranger to anyone. Hannah’s small family lives a quiet life in a houseboat in the San Francisco Bay until she receives a mysterious note from Owen. It reads Protect her, which is so ambiguous and strange that she thinks Owen is just playing a prank on her. She tries to get to the bottom of this by calling him, but when he does not answer, she begins to think something seriously wrong has happened.
On her way to pick up Bailey, she learns from a radio broadcast that federal authorities have raided Owen’s company, where he worked as the chief coder. Further shock awaits her when Bailey gets in the backseat of her car with a note from Owen and a duffle bag filled with cash.
Hannah soon discovers that Owen was not arrested in the raid because her friend, Jules, tipped him two hours prior. US Marshal Grady Bradford pays a visit to Hannah’s home the following morning. He warns her that there is more to her husband than she knows.
This motivates her to investigate her husband’s life, starting with his laptop. After a long time searching, she discovers Owen’s updated will, which only worsens the bad feeling she has about his disappearance.
What happens further in the story is a tale of lots of twists and turns before the important questions raised in the book are answered.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME
Laura Dave found inspiration for The Last Thing He Told Me in the Enron scandal, specifically Enron CEO Kenneth Lay and his devoted wife, Linda Lay. Dave saw an interview with Linda Lay wherein she insisted that her husband was innocent of any wrong. This caught her attention and led to the question that planted the seed for her novel: what if you trust someone in spite of all evidence proving the contrary? She wanted to write a story that revolved around this question and achieved a sound resolution in this novel.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME
While the mystery was gripping enough, the author missed on certain aspects. One of them was adding more depth to the relationship between Hannah and Bailey, which eventually came across as a bit lackluster. The author also failed to mention the media coverage of the raid at Owen’s office that should have been a highlight, given his high-profile role, but none of that happened in the book.
Dave also downplayed the main conflict to highlight Hannah and Bailey’s growth individually, and as a family. While they had touching moments, Hannah’s insights about parenting were mostly bland, and they were not anything new to readers who have parented teenagers themselves.
He never understood that I wasn’t scared of someone leaving me, I was scared that the wrong person would stay.
Most people don’t want to hear the thing that will make it work better… They want to hear what will make it easier.
We don’t turn away from the parts of someone we don’t want to see. However quickly or long it takes to see them. We accept them if we are strong enough. Or we accept them enough to not let the bad parts become the entire story.
The Last Thing He Told Me deserves 3.5 stars out of 5 for being fast-paced and engrossing from start to finish. Dave successfully blurs the line between good and bad, and she treats her readers to a thrilling ride that will take some forgetting.
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