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The Last Romantics: A Novel

The Last Romantics: A Novel

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The Last Romantics: A Novel

avaliações:
4/5 (80 avaliações)
Comprimento:
416 página
6 horas
Lançado em:
Feb 5, 2019
ISBN:
9780062358226
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

“A richly observed novel, both ambitious and welcoming.” -- Meg Wolitzer

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

Named a Best Book of the Month by Goodreads • Lithub • Refinery29 • InStyle • HelloGiggles • Real SimpleParade • PureWow • Bustle

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love.

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love. 

A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, The Last Romantics is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.


Lançado em:
Feb 5, 2019
ISBN:
9780062358226
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

Tara Conklin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The House Girl. Trained as a lawyer, she worked for an international human rights organization and as a litigator at a corporate law firm in London and New York. Her short fiction has appeared in the Bristol Prize Anthology, Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe, and This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home. She holds a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School (Tufts University). She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her family.

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Amostra do Livro

The Last Romantics - Tara Conklin

Dedication

Dedicated to the memory of Luella Briody Conklin

and Kenneth Jerome Conklin

For my sisters

Epigraph

Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.

—Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you.

—Karen O, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

Year 2079

Part I: Bexley

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Part II: New York City

Year 2079

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Part III: Miami

Year 2079

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Part IV: After

Year 2079

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Acknowledgments

P.S. Insights, Interviews & More . . .*

About the Author

About the Book

Read On

Praise

Also by Tara Conklin

Copyright

About the Publisher

Year 2079

AT FIRST I believed the girl to be an apparition. A ghost. She rose from the crowd in the auditorium and walked to the microphone.

I remained very still. For the past ninety minutes, I had been seated onstage to discuss my body of work. As much as I dread large crowds, the event had been a success. The audience was respectful, intelligent, curious. I’d even made them laugh. That joke about the frog, of all things. We heard the sirens only once, a brief wail during which I paused my reading. We all waited, the thousand here in the auditorium and the thousands more watching via satellite and DTR. We waited, and then the sirens quieted, and I resumed with my poem.

Afterward the questions. So many questions! My first public event in twenty-five years—of course there would be questions, but I was not prepared for the intensity, the thoroughness with which these people had read my work. It still surprises me now, eighty years into this literary experiment, that my words might mean something to anyone other than myself.

I am 102 years old and a poet of some renown. My name is Fiona Skinner.

When the girl stepped forward, my attention was elsewhere. My energy low. I wondered what snack Henry had waiting for me backstage and hoped it was the candy with the peanut butter in the center, my favorite. My thoughts fixed on other comforts: the tall, soft bed in my house in the mountains; the river stocked with trout; the deep, cold well; the generator with its soothing hum. We never heard the sirens there, no, the nearest town was too far. It was a safe place, our house, a place beyond the reach of politics and rising oceans. At least that’s what I chose to believe. It’s possible to exist under any number of illusions, to believe so thoroughly in the presence of things you cannot see—safety, God, love—that you impose upon them physical shapes. A bed, a cross, a husband. But ideas willed into being are still ideas and just as fragile.

The girl at the microphone was an arresting sight: slender and tall, a dark bob cut short and sharp to her chin. She looked eighteen, perhaps twenty years old. Not a girl, then, nearly a woman.

The crowd was silent. She coughed into her hand. Ms. Skinner, she began. My name is Luna.

Luna? I said, and my voice caught, my breath stilled. For a moment I traveled back all those years to a different place and time. At last, I thought. Luna has returned.

"Yes. My mother named me after the last line of The Love Poem," she said.

Oh, of course. I smiled. Henry had told me about this, the popularity of the name. The Love Poem had that effect on some readers. They wanted to keep a piece of it. And here was one of those babies, now grown, standing before me. Another Luna.

The girl’s face was half in shadow. I saw a mole high on her right cheek. About the size of a dime. A birthmark. A dark kiss.

My mother always wanted to ask you about the name, Luna continued. She’d memorized the last pages at school. When my brother and I were little, she’d recite them at dinner if we were feeling down. Her face became soft with the memory. "The Love Poem meant so much to her. I want to know, for my mother. Who was your inspiration? Who was Luna?"

The auditorium went still. Onstage the lights had become hot, but a cold spread through me, ice flooding my veins. I shivered. A sweat rose along my hairline. It was a question I’d always refused to answer publicly. And privately; even Henry didn’t know the truth. But of course I should have expected it tonight. Isn’t that why I’d agreed to speak one last time? Isn’t that why I was here? To finally tell this story.

An old regret lodged in my throat, blocking my voice. I coughed.

"Luna is the Spanish word for moon, of course, I said. In the poem itself, there are many metaphors, many symbols that mean different things. I wrote it seventy-five years ago, my dear. Your mother, you, anyone here—I waved my palm at the audience—you know what the poem means more than I do now."

The Luna standing before me shook her head in frustration. A lock of hair fell into her eyes, and she pushed it away. No. I mean the real woman. My mother always said there was someone named Luna.

I straightened my spine and heard the bones crack, a minor internal disruption. I wasn’t often put on the spot. At home I had a gardener, a personal assistant, a housekeeper, a cook. I lived with my second husband, Henry, but I ran the house and gave the orders. Some might say I’m imposing. I prefer to think of it as self-assured. This girl was also self-assured, I could see it in the set of her shoulders, the purse of her lips.

How to describe the first Luna? I met Luna Hernandez only once. On a night when the wind threw tree branches onto the road and leaves whirled in crazy circles. Decades ago, a lifetime ago. That Luna had grown and changed in my mind until I hardly saw her anymore. Were her eyes brown or gray? The mole, was it high on the right cheek or the left? Had it been remorse I saw on her face that night or merely dismissal?

I wrote a poem about love, I began, addressing the crowd. "But there are certain limitations. There are certain failings. I’ve always been wary of love, you see. Its promises are too dizzy, its reasons too vague, its origins murkier than mud. Here I heard a chuckle from the audience. Yes, mud! I called in the direction of the laugh. When I was young, I tried dissecting love, setting it up on a table with a good strong light and poking, prodding, slicing. For years I believed it possible to identify the crux, the core, and that once you found this essential element you might tend it like a rose and grow something beautiful. Back then I was a romantic. I didn’t understand that there’s no stopping betrayal. If you live long enough and well enough to know love, its various permutations and shades, you will falter. You will break someone’s heart. Fairy tales don’t tell you that. Poetry doesn’t either."

I paused.

You’re not answering the question, Luna said; her arms were now crossed against her chest, her chin down.

Let me tell you a story, I said. In these difficult times, stories are important. In a sense, stories are all we have to tell us about the future.

Luna moved away from the microphone. She was listening intently, everyone was, shoulders pitched just slightly forward, curious and alert.

Once upon a time, I began, there was a father and a mother and four children, three girls and one boy. They lived together in a house like any other house, in a town like many other towns, and for a time they were happy. I paused, and all those faces in the auditorium stared down on me, all those eyes. And then— I stopped again, faltering. I sipped my glass of water. And then there was the Pause. Everything started there. Our mother didn’t mean for it to happen, she didn’t, but this is a story about the failures of love, and the Pause was the first.

Part I

Bexley

Chapter 1

IN THE SPRING of 1981, our father died. His name was Ellis Avery Skinner, thirty-four years old, a small bald lozenge at the back of his head that he covered every morning with a few hopeful strands. We lived in the middle-class town of Bexley, Connecticut, where our father owned and operated a dental practice. At the moment his heart stopped, he was pulling on a pair of blue rubber gloves while one of his afternoon patients, a Mrs. Lipton, lay before him on the padded recliner, breathing deeply from a sweet mask of chloroform.

Oh! our father said, and toppled sideways to the floor.

Dr. Skinner? Mrs. Lipton sat up. She was unsteady, groggy, and afraid as she looked down at our father on the floor. He twitched once, twice, and then Mrs. Lipton began to scream.

The look on his face, she later reported to our mother, was one of surrender and absolute surprise.

Our mother was thirty-one years old. She’d never held a full-time job and possessed a degree in English literature from Colby College in her home state of Maine that sat unframed in an upstairs closet. Her dark hair hung like two pressed curtains framing the window of her face. Her eyes were wide and brown, with sparse lashes and narrow lids that gave an impression of watchfulness and exposure. Her name was Antonia, though everyone called her Noni, and it was decided long before my birth that her children should call her Noni, too.

The day of our father’s funeral was dank, mid-March. Ronald Reagan was president, the Cold War dragged on, Star Wars had made us all believe in forces we could not see. At that time Bexley was a town where people greeted each other by name at the post office or the bank and no one cared who had money and who did not. The doctor and the mill worker both visited my father for root canals, and both drank beer at the same drafty tavern. The dark Punnel River meandered along the east side of town and gave us something to do on summer days. This was still the era when a ninety-minute commute to New York City seemed absurd, and so the people who lived in Bexley, for the most part, worked in Bexley.

It was no surprise when the whole town turned out for our father’s funeral. Hundreds, it seemed to me. Thousands. Noni led us through that awful day with an iron grip on two of our eight hands. She alternated, she did not play favorites. She had four children, and we all needed to feel the warmth of her palm.

Renee, the eldest of us, was eleven years old. Long, thin limbs, chestnut hair she wore in a single braid down her back. Even as a child, Renee exuded competence and self-containment, and at the funeral she was no different. She did not cry or make a fuss when her tights ran up the back. She helped Noni with us, the younger ones, and tried not to look directly at the casket.

After Renee came Caroline, who was eight, and then Joe, who was seven. Caroline was the fairest of us, with cheeks pink as bubble gum and hair that streaked blond in the summers. Joe was the boy, the only boy, with floppy hands and large feet and a stubborn right-side cowlick that he was forever flipping away from his face. Joe and Caroline both had a tawny glow and quick, broad grins and were mistaken so frequently for twins that sometimes even they forgot there was a year between them.

And then came me, Fiona, the youngest, four years and eight months old on the day our father died. I was a pudgy child with soft, dimpled knees and unruly reddish hair that frizzed and flamed around my freckled face. My looks contrasted so vividly with those of my lithe, golden siblings that neighbors raised eyebrows. A tilt of the head, a shadow of gossipy doubt passing behind the eyes. Bexley, Connecticut, was like that. Working-class New Englanders starched in Puritan ethics. Their nails were dirty, but their souls were clean. After our father’s death, the gossip stopped. Widowhood trumped the suggestion of infidelity. In her grief Noni became infallible, untouchable.

I remember very little about my father while he was alive, but the day we buried him I recall in great detail. At the cemetery a racket of crows flew above the casket. Our priest, Father Johns, delivered remarks in tones that rose and fell like a fitful storm; I could not understand a word of it. The ground was mushy with thaw, but crusts of snow still lurked beneath trees and along the shadowy side of the marble mausoleum that sat up on a low hill behind the grave site.

The mausoleum resembled a house: front steps, a peaked roof, the appearance of windows. It was so much larger and more impressive than the tidy headstone Noni had chosen for our father’s grave. I was more interested in the mausoleum than I was in Father Johns, and so I ran away from the funeral, around the back of the crowd, and up the hill. The mausoleum stones were a deep gray, speckled with rain spots and age, significant and somber. Along the top I sounded out the name GARRISON H. CLARK. And then: BELOVED FATHER, HUSBAND, SON, BROTHER, COLLEAGUE, FRIEND.

Down the small hill, Father Johns spoke in a dull, deep voice. From a distance, finally, I could make out the words:

Too soon . . .

Great burden . . .

Do not ask . . .

Noni’s head was bowed; she hadn’t noticed my absence. Noni was Catholic and felt it in her knees that ached from all the praying but not, she realized that day, in her heart. This was the last time she would entertain the rituals of organized religion, the last day she would bow her head to the words of a man wearing white.

From my position on the hill, the mourners looked similar to the crows, only bigger and quieter, perched on the yellowish green of the spring grass that cut abruptly to the darkness of earth beside the casket. I thought of how little space there was on our father’s stone. How unassuming it was, how meager, nothing like Garrison H. Clark’s showy marble mausoleum. Standing beneath a stranger’s name, gazing down at my father’s funeral, for the first time that day I began to cry.

* * *

WE LIVED IN a yellow house, a three-story Colonial on a street lined with arching maples and oaks that threw down acorns in the spring and curling red and orange leaves in the fall. There was a steep, clattery staircase leading to the bedrooms upstairs and a basement that smelled faintly of mold and scorched sheets. In the backyard we had a metal swing set, and a sandbox used regularly by the neighborhood cats, and flower beds of nasturtium, lavender, gardenia, and clematis tended diligently by Noni.

After our father’s funeral, people began to arrive at the yellow house. Everyone from church and others, too, people I had never seen before, people who knew my name and crouched to say it: Fiona! Darling Fi!

Our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Granger, took the plates covered in plastic wrap, the Tupperware containers in pastel shades, and bustled away to place them on the dining-room table. It struck me as odd to see Mrs. Granger perform this role, which seemed more properly to belong to Noni. But she remained on the orange couch, a white handkerchief moving from face to lap, face to lap, as strangers knelt before her, bowing their heads as though she bestowed upon them some sort of honor. She had never looked less like our mother.

The black of Noni’s dress, the orange of the couch, and the white of the handkerchief reminded me of Halloween, and I felt a strange, empty excitement. A near hysteria. Plus all the food. Everywhere! Bowls of green grapes and Chex Mix and hard butterscotch candies and potato chips. Platters of ham-and-cheese sandwiches cut into neat triangles, cubes of watermelon that leaked pink juice onto the white tablecloth. I grabbed what I could and ate it quickly, unsure as to what was permitted here, what would be allowed.

It soon became clear that anything was allowed when your father has died. I spied Joe beneath a table with an entire bowl of hard candies and three cans of Coca-Cola. Caroline took off her tights and sprawled on the floor, singing to herself; Renee sat on a rocking chair and picked with great concentration at an elbow scab, ignoring the adult who stood before her, saying her name again and again in a calm, sympathetic voice.

I ran crazily around the room. I slapped various bottoms and did not apologize. I picked my nose and wiped my finger on the coffee table. No one stopped me or spoke to me or noticed me at all. The freedom was exhausting. I climbed unsteadily into Renee’s lap. She wore a stiff black dress and black tights that she pulled at as I settled against her. With a shoeless toe, she rocked the chair back and forth, back and forth. The movement soothed me like a ship on the sea or a car on a bumpy road. This is how I would always imagine Renee: as a steadiness in times of turmoil.

I was on Renee’s lap when it began. I don’t know what triggered Joe’s fury. I know only that he got hold of a fireplace poker, sooty at its tip, cast iron, heavy. About the length of a baseball bat.

Joe began in the dining room and moved steadily, ferociously through the house. He did not strike people, only things. There was the sound of wood splintering, glass shattering, dull thumps and sickening crashes as he brought the poker down again and again on a table, a chair, those many bowls and platters of food. The noise startled me, but I didn’t cry. I listened. We all listened. Muted conversations and quiet tears gave way to a nervous, cowardly hush.

Crash. Into the living room he came. The crystal bowl full of hard candies, the porcelain table lamp with a linen shade, Noni’s collection of delicate glassware cats—all crashed and shattered to the floor. Joe paused before the piano, and then he took aim at the photographs that stood on top: pictures of what we, the Skinners, had been until that day. Six together. Ellis and Antonia, Renee and Caroline and Joe and little Fiona. Crash. Six together on windswept New England beaches and before tinselly Christmas trees, grinning and mugging, arms over shoulders, holding hands. Crash. We were gap-toothed children and anonymous infants, full-cheeked within our swaddles. Our parents were proud and exhausted, bright, blameless, beautiful even in their polyester and plaid. Crash. All of it, gone.

I waited for someone to stop Joe, but no one did. The room echoed with the noise of his destruction, grunts and strained inhalations, but otherwise there was silence. No one spoke. No one moved to stop him. Even Noni remained on the couch, her face pale and stricken. I wondered then, and I would wonder for the rest of my life: why did our mother not take the poker from Joe’s grasp, wrap her arms around him, tell him that everything would be okay?

Finally Joe paused. At seven years old, he already stood four feet tall. A borrowed black suit showed his pale ankles and pale, knobby wrists. Plaster dust had settled in his hair, onto the shoulders of his suit, ghosting his skin. With a free hand, he wiped sweat from his forehead.

Then a man’s voice called out. To this day I have no idea who spoke, but one could say he changed the course of Joe’s life, of all our lives. Antonia, the voice said. Your boy’s got quite an arm. It’d be a shame if he didn’t play some baseball.

Someone chuckled. A child began to cry. With a dull thud, Joe dropped the poker. Renee removed me from her lap, and went to him. Joe, she said. His hands shook, and she took one in her own. Caroline sprinted across the room in her bare feet and threw her arms around him. I followed, stumbling like a drunk from sleepiness and overstimulation, and wrapped myself around Joe’s calves and feet.

I believe this was the moment when we each assumed responsibility for our brother, Joe. A lifelong obligation of love that each of us, for different reasons, would not fulfill. We would try: Renee in her studied, worrisome way; Caroline carelessly with great bursts of energy followed by distraction; and myself, quiet and tentative, assuming that Joe would never need me, not in the way that I needed him. Years later this assumption would prove to be wrong. But by then it would be too late.

* * *

THE FIRST THING Noni did after all the funeral food was eaten and we had returned to school was to inquire about Little League baseball for Joe. She could focus on one thing at a time, she thought. If she tried to fix everyone all at once, she would fail, she would fall to the floor and never get up again. It’s important to take small steps. This was what Mrs. Cooperton, our neighbor the social worker, told her at the funeral. One day at a time. Cross one thing off your list at a time.

Noni worried that Joe would lack a strong male presence in his life, and that worry eclipsed all others. Her inquiries returned the name of a baseball coach, Marty Roach, who was famous in Bexley. For twenty-three years he’d taught young boys the nature of teamwork and the beauty of a well-thrown ball. His office, Noni had heard, was festooned with birthday cards sent by former players, men now, who had moved on to cities and careers but harbored an enduring affection for old Coach Marty. This was what Noni wanted. Someone who would endure for Joe.

Looks like the roster’s already full, the man on the phone told her. But for you, Mrs. Skinner, we can fit one more.

Noni brought us all to that first practice. The team met at the Bexley High School playing field, which was rough, chewed-up grass bordered to the north by a chain-link fence. Beyond the fence lay thick scrub, densely packed bushes, brambles, and spindly pines that eventually thickened and stretched into the forest that covered Packensatt Peak, the closest thing to a mountain that Bexley could claim. High-school kids liked to jump the fence and wander into this wilderness to smoke and drink and light fires and have faltering, unforgettable sex. Noni looked across the field to the tangled trees and saw a defensive line holding steady against an encroaching disorder.

On the field a dozen boys stood in a row, a loose knot of fathers beside them. The air smelled of wet leaves and sweetness from the mulch that sat in huge piles around the field’s southern perimeter, spring preparation for later plantings. Off to the side was Marty Roach. Maybe it was the suggestion of the surname, but I had never before seen a man who so closely resembled an insect. He was short and stocky, with burly shoulders, a dark, ample mustache, and large meat-hook hands. Sparse black hair striped the white dome of his scalp, and I thought that at any moment antennae would sprout from his forehead. He looked designed to survive in hardy conditions, to find forgotten crumbs in a clean kitchen. Noni shook his hand uneasily.

Hiya, Joe, he said, leaning down to look my brother in the eye. Ready to play? He inclined his head toward the row of boys.

Joe nodded once and stepped away from Noni, took his place in line.

Now, boys, Marty said, stretching his arms out wide. Today is our first day as a team. We are all learning our roles. As teammates you will come to rely on one another. You will come to know one another like brothers. Coach Marty paused. But for today let’s just have some fun.

We sat in the stands with Noni and watched as boys threw balls to their fathers with loose, inelegant gestures. Marty stood alone with Joe and showed him how to hold a bat, swing evenly from the waist, trap a ball within the webbed leather of his glove. After a spell the boys divided into teams and began to scrimmage. Joe positioned himself in center field, just behind second base, where he looked both in the thick of it and dismally alone. Poor Joe, I thought. He stepped from one foot to the other, rubbed his nose, took off his hat and put it on again. The other players laughed or talked or waved to their fathers. Oh, poor Joe.

Batters took their turns at the plate. There were futile swings, dropped bats, tears. Finally a round-bellied blond stepped up. He was short but powerful, clearly experienced. A father lobbed a gentle pitch, the boy swung hard, and—crack—the ball arced forward into the field. And then, all at once, it was Joe like a toy on a spring who came up high to catch the ball. The force of the ball hitting Joe’s glove—whomp—took me by surprise.

The blond boy pulled up from running, a look of shock and dismay on his face.

Wow! Great catch! Marty called to Joe.

We clapped wildly, my sisters and Noni and I. Joe gave us a small wave. He smiled. Beside me on the bleachers, I felt Noni expand in the way of a hungry lung filling at last with air. She waved back at Joe.

* * *

AFTER BASEBALL BEGAN for Joe, one worry relaxed but others rose up to replace it.

Sometimes after dinner I heard Noni muttering. One thing at a time, she would say. One thing. One thing.

The casseroles stopped appearing on our doorstep. Our teachers stopped asking how we were holding up and gazing at us with grave, kindly faces. I slept soundly now. Joe and Renee, too. Only Caroline still suffered nightmares, terrifying dreams of darkness and a child with evil eyes. But after a spell, we became accustomed to Caroline’s bad dreams, and so it seemed, in a way, a return to normalcy.

One thing at a time. One thing.

Sometimes Noni yelled and threw objects at the wall—pencils and books and staplers. Papers littered the kitchen table and the study and Noni’s bedroom. At night Noni worried over a big gray calculator. We wandered in and kissed her and asked her to put us to bed, but she would say, In a minute, just give me a minute, and so we put ourselves to bed. We fell asleep atop the covers to the sound of Noni punching numbers with a jagged index finger, sharp and insistent.

Three months after our father died, we moved from our yellow house to a gray one-story ranch six miles away. This house had no stairs or swing set or much of a backyard, only a strip of gravel and a rectangle of sparse, yellowed grass that backed against a tall wooden fence. In the front yard sat a single tree, a large, humbling locust that threw a rough blanket of shade over the house. We loved our yellow house and cried more bitterly for this loss than we had for our father.

We have no money, Noni explained. I’m sorry. Your daddy never told me we were out of money.

It was June when we moved. School was out. Low-relief mounds of mosquito bites marked my legs, red and itchy and bleeding from my attentions. On that sticky, heavy day, we all rode with Noni in the long front seat of the U-Haul. Joe sat closest to the window, and he alone craned his neck to watch the yellow house disappear behind us.

We helped Noni unpack the towels and sheets, the plates and silverware, our summer clothes, our books. Renee and Caroline would now share a room. Joe was down the hall, closest to the bathroom. I would sleep in a small, tucked-away space that had a low ceiling and no windows. Our old things looked wrong in the new rooms. At any moment I expected someone—our father perhaps—to pop out from behind a door and say Surprise! or What a hoot!, which were things our father used to say.

For dinner that first night, we sat on the couch and ate spaghetti with sauce from a jar. Accidentally we had arranged ourselves by age: Renee beside Caroline beside Joe beside me. I was wearing my nightgown, a short one, and the nubby orange upholstery itched against the backs of my thighs. The skin around our mouths was stained pink from the tomato sauce.

Kids, Noni said. She was standing in front of the couch. Unpacked boxes lined the walls. In the kitchen dirty dishes filled the sink.

Yes? said Renee.

Kids, Noni said again. I’m feeling tired. Very tired. Her hair hung lank around her face, her eyes gazed out from deep inside her head. The bones around her neck were thin and pronounced. They looked delicate, easy to break.

I need some rest, Noni said. Okay? She gazed from one of us to the other, her eyebrows up.

Caroline, Joe, and I all turned to Renee: she was the eldest, she was the one who knew how to answer our mother.

Don’t worry, Noni, said Renee. I can do it.

Noni nodded once as though something had been decided. She bent to each of us and hugged us, kissed us on our heads. There was a tickle of hair against my cheek, and then she disappeared down the long, dark hall to her bedroom.

Our mother did not emerge for three days. Then six. Then four. Then six again. This continued. Occasionally she would appear to cook dinner. Or ask us about our day. Or preside over a cut knee, a sunburned shoulder, a snotty nose. But primarily she rested in her room, door closed, curtains drawn, lights off. A bubble of darkened quiet that we feared to disrupt. How long did it last? Renee later claimed three years, give or take. Joe put it closer to two. When we were older, we called this period the Pause, but back then we had no words to describe it. We pretended that it was okay. This was temporary, we told ourselves. We must wait for Noni to finish resting. We must wait patiently for her to return.

Chapter 2

THAT FIRST SUMMER we went feral. Joe and I became wild things, twigs in our hair, skin brown and dirty and scraped. Renee and Caroline tried to remain more respectable, more mature, but they, too, bore the marks of neglect and adventure. The house was never clean. We pulled what we needed from the cardboard boxes but did not unpack them fully. We played games, built forts, constructed castles that stayed up for days and then scattered underfoot as we played indoor tag or wrestled or fought. We slept in the clothes we wore all day, we did not brush our teeth, we bathed only when we began to smell ourselves or when Renee stripped off

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  • (4/5)
    Digital Audio performed by Cassandra Campbell.A family epic following the four Skinner siblings over several decades. It begins with a tragedy – the death of their father, and their mother’s subsequent depression. Renee, Caroline, Joe and Fiona are basically left to their own devices over a summer, protecting each other and their mother from intrusion as much as they are able. The result of what they always refer to as “the Pause” is that they are fiercely loyal to one another. Two decades later that connection will be tested by another tragedy.I love character-driven novels, getting to know and understand the psychology of the characters as they cause and/or react to events in their lives. In this case the siblings’ early experience makes them guarded and as the point of view shifts from character to character and from one time frame to another, that guardedness makes it easy to understand how outsiders (i.e. those outside the family) would be unaware of the need and/or unwilling to assist. That these four people are damaged by their childhood is without question. The ways they find to cope, or not, is what fascinated me in the novel. I recognized how the roles taken on by siblings in childhood often continue into adulthood; that’s certainly true in m own family, and we didn’t suffer the trauma of losing a parent during our formative years. I was sorry that COVID19 interrupted our book club’s scheduled meeting on this work. I would certainly have enjoyed that discussion.Cassandra Campbell is a talented voice artist and does a marvelous job performing the audio. However, the complexity of the novel’s structure, with changing points of views and timeframes, made it a bit more challenging in this format. If I re-read it, I’ll do so in text format.
  • (4/5)
    A family saga that spans a century. A story of sibling relationships, how they grow close due to a family situation, come apart, and finally come together again, albeit not the same. Conklin does an excellent job looking into her characters lives with a keen insight and a generosity towards the flaws each holds within. Fiona, the youngest sister is our narrator, and her experiences as the youngest in a family of four seems authentic and real. Ultimately, this is a novel about love, what we survive, what we forgive and what we pretend not to know to spare another. It is about growing and reacting to the situations we experience. There is happiness, sadness, challenges, all the things of which life and family are made."We believe in love because we want to believe in it. Because really, what else is there?Because when the lights go out and we sit waiting in the dark, what do our fingers seek? What do we reach for?"
  • (4/5)
    This was a very interesting book. In a way the plot is straightforward but the characters are so well done that it makes the plot all the more interesting. I'm not so sure that it needed the chapters that covered the year 2079 but there weren't that many of them so it wasn't that distracting.
  • (4/5)
    A good family drama is like a pint of chocolate ice cream...just a spoonful...ok, maybe a small bowl...fine! Just give me the pint and a spoon!I really didn’t mean to stay up way past my bedtime or get up early to keep reading, but once I started The Last Romantics I couldn’t stop. It has all the elements: tragedy for 4 siblings at a young age, parents not involved, one “star” sibling that will be the one who makes it...and then the twists and turns as they change completely in adulthood. Conklin sets it very much in the time period with references to 80s fashion, 90s pop culture, the start of the internet and social media and climate change. I’d recommend if you like Meg Wolitzer or Chloe Benjamin.
  • (5/5)
    Well done. Great story.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent book. Loved the relationships of the siblings.
  • (4/5)
    This story takes you through the life of a poet and her family. I found myself both bored and intrigued at any given minute while reading it. There were parts that I felt it really slogged through the mud, so to speak, then other parts that were insightful and interesting. Overall, I'm happy to have read this story, it was a good one.
  • (2/5)
    When dentist Ellis Skinner suddenly dies at the age of 34, his wife, Noni, goes into a depression and pretty much stays in her bedroom for three years--a period that her four children refer to as The Pause. Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona are left to their own devices and learn to take care of one another. But as adults, things start to fall apart. Renee, psychologically wounded by a near-rape experience, avoids men and motherhood while second sister Caroline drops out of college to marry her high school sweetheart. Joe, the only boy, seems to be a golden child, winning a baseball scholarship to a prestigious school--until alcohol and drugs get him expelled. Fiona, the youngest, writes a popular blog, The Last Romantic, that details the failings of the many men she sleeps with, but in time she becomes a renowned poet. They go through the usual love/hate phases that most siblings do, often spurred by jealousy but sometimes just by being disappointed in one another. In other words, the story is what I would consider a soap opera, plain and simple.For some reason, Conklin chooses to start the book in 2079, when the only one left is Fiona--and there is some kind of climate crisis shaking the world. When I started reading, my first thought was, "Oh, no, not another dystopian novel!" (I am not a fan. of the genre.) But no, this seems to have been thrown in for little or no reason and has little or nothing to do with the story. The power grid goes down while the aged Fiona is giving a poetry reading--a device that seems stuck in as a way of allowing a young woman in the audience named Luna to come to her aid. Oh, there was another Luna, years ago, who looked just like this Luna, down to the mole on her cheek. That Luna apparently inspired Fiona's first successful poetry collection, and this Luna was apparently named for her by a mother who loved the book. None of this makes much sense until much, much later, and even in retrospect, it's still an awkward beginning. We keep hearing about Fiona the Famous Poet, yet we never get a glimpse of her poetry in the entire novel. And I'm still left wondering why Conklin inserted the environmental business, which really had nothing to do with the story. Fiona works for an environmental group--but we never hear anything about her work or the group's mission.Overall, this plot is clunky, and at times it's overly contrived, especially in the last quarter, when each of the Skinners' lives (including mom Noni) makes a 180 for no apparent reason at all. Then they all die. The plot moves back and forth through time--sometimes confusingly--and from one character's point of view to another's. There's also considerable sloppiness in facts and research. Just to mention one: in 1982, teenaged Fiona has a job cutting up veggies at a diner, for which she is paid $8/hour. What? It's 2019, and many Americans are still fighting for an $8/hour wage!I finished this novel in about three days--not because I was engrossed in the story, but because I was bored and began to skim it. I doubt that I will seek out another book by this author.
  • (3/5)
    A parent dies, a parent retreats and the children are left to fend for themselves. Damaged psyches are left to fester and it gets uglier and more uncomfortable.The book captured my intention and held it until it didn’t. I thought the writing was masterful and while the storyline was weak and somewhat confusing it all unraveled for me when the main character starts and explains her blog. Game over for me. At that point I lost interest but I plowed through to the end.There could have been so much to care about but the real and the abstract and the emotions and justifications were all over the place. Thank you LibraryThing and William Morrow for a copy.
  • (5/5)
    I love a good family saga and The Last Romantics was one of the best I have read it a long time. It seems most sagas are historical, but this one was more contemporary because it was told by Fiona from 2079 looking back on her life, so most of the story took place in the late 70s through about 2010. It helps that those were memorable years for me as well. The story is primarily about three sisters and a brother, all with different personalities, so I believe most readers will be able to identify with one of the characters. This was one book I didn't want to end.
  • (4/5)
    This is the story of a family, primarily of the four siblings from when they are very young right through to the end of their lives. This is a very softly spoken story and moves at a relaxed pace. No page turning action here, but what you get instead is highly developed characters with complex relationships. You really bond with these siblings, worrying about them in times of trouble and rejoicing with them in times of joy. You become part of the family. I found it to be a really comforting reading experience with themes of the nurturing individual personalities within a family and accepting that life is an ever changing experience that is rarely all good or all bad. The end is fully wrapped up - not necessarily with a bow but very complete and satisfying anyway.
  • (4/5)
    3.4 Stars, rounded to 4.This book tells the story of four siblings and the closeness they develop as children while their mother is mostly unavailable to them, for about three years. After the death of her husband, Noni Skinner sinks into a deep depression, a period her children later deem “the pause”. The Skinner children learn to depend only on each other. Fiona, the youngest, is the one who’s POV is given most often as she narrates this story, although the lives of each of the four are explored in some depth. Despite their closeness and interdependence, there are cracks that develop in the relationships of all the four siblings in their early adulthood.While I loved the earlier book I read by this author, House Girl, I can only say I mostly enjoyed this book, largely due to the author’s writing style and skills. I did not feel deeply engaged with any of the characters here, or to the story.At the opening of this book, which is set in 2079, when Fiona is 102 years ago and telling the story of her family, it sounded as if it might be a dystopian type story, due to several vague references to what is happening in that 2079 world. But those were never explored any further as the story unfolded, just left hanging.My thanks to Library Thing, the author, and the William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishing Company for the ARC of this book which I was provided.
  • (5/5)
    The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is the moving story of the family bonds that both save us and tear us asunder. ''...this is a story about the failures of love, and the Pause was the first." from The Last Romantics by Tara ConklinFiona Skinner, 102 years old and a renowned poet, returns to the podium for the first time in twenty-five years. A girl arises from the audience with a question: Who was Luna?The Luna of Fiona's most famous poetry inspired women to name their daughters Luna. And this girl, named Luna, asks for her mother the question--who was Luna?Fiona wrote the poem "a lifetime ago," "back when I was a romantic," she responds. The girl presses. And for the first time ever Fiona reveals the story of her family and the secret she has held in her heart for so long."Once upon a time," she begins, "there was a father and a mother and four children...and for a time they were happy."And like Fiona's audience, enrapt, I was carried away by her story of the ways love carries us and fails us and how we turn from each other and how we carry each other. Her story of love's truth, it's bitterness and how it is the only thing that makes life endurable, and our deeply held illogical hope, which experience tells us is fantasy, that love can and will save us.And that is all I am going to tell you. I still feel the warm heartache, the fullness and pressure in my chest, the awful truth I encountered in this fiction. Look around at your beloved family, the people you have given yourselves to, the people who cut the deepest and brought the fullest healing, who made you strong and brought you to your knees. The people you endeavor to protect and save, the people you have lost and haunt you. And tell me--what is love? I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
  • (4/5)
    The thing about The Last Romantics that hooked me from the beginning was the name Luna. The mysterious Luna had something to do with Fiona's brother's "incident" and I couldn't stop turning pages to find out how. But this isn't a mystery or even a suspense novel; it's a family history, starting from Fiona's childhood, through the Pause when her mother's depression left Fiona and her siblings to fend for themselves and develop bonds between them that would prove tenuous in later years, to the distant future when an elderly Fiona is recounting the whole story through her poetry. I enjoyed reading this book through it's meandering beginnings to its sweeping ending.
  • (5/5)
    There are four Skinner siblings in Tara Conklin's The Last Romantics. Renee is the oldest, the responsible one. Caroline, the next oldest, is soft-hearted and traditional. Then Joe, the only boy, the gifted athlete, the apple of everyone's eye. And finally Fiona, the baby. The Skinners are a happy family until they're not: when their father dies in an accident, their mother Noni finds out that they're not as well off as she thought, and the loss of not only her husband but the life she thought she had achieved pitches her into a deep depression. They downsize, and Noni takes to her bed. For a couple years. The Skinner children are more or less left to raise themselves during what they come to call The Pause.The seeds of what will become of them are planted during The Pause. Renee takes her responsibilities to take care of the others seriously, and becomes dedicated to achieving at a level that will keep anyone from guessing what's going on at home, setting her down a path towards becoming a doctor. Caroline falls in with a neighbor family, forming a bond with one of their boys that will deepen into romance and marriage. Joe's talent and good looks ensure that his outward needs are met, even if he struggles to process his trauma. And Fiona learns to observe, a skill that comes in handy as she becomes a writer and poet. Noni does recover, and the family seems more or less intact, but the damage that's been done can't be undone.I was biased towards this one from the start: this kind of following-a-group-of-characters-over-time thing is something I absolutely love in a book. I tend to find that the books that stay with me the most are ones where character is first and foremost, and this book is all about character. The siblings and their relationships feel complicated and real. Though they all had moments of being their worst selves, their behaviors felt rooted in how their experiences, particularly during their childhoods, interacted with their innate personalities. I also appreciated that the book never felt the need to have there be a dramatic confrontation between the children and their mother...it generally leaned away from melodrama rather than leaning into it, and I think there are plenty of families that do just try their best to forget the bad moments and move on.As much as I loved this book for the most part, there were some plot elements that kept me from considering it truly great. First was the idea that The Pause could go on for multiple years without anyone really noticing. As much as Renee was able to serve in loco parentis to her younger siblings, there are things like doctor's visits and parent-teacher conferences and signing up for extracurriculars that seem like they could have been patched over for a while but not for as long as Conklin asked us to believe. And then there was the framing device, which featured a very elderly Fiona (in a world where global climate change has changed things for the worse) interacting with a young woman who might have a connection to the Skinners. This did strike me as a little too convenient and neat. On the whole, though, this is a lovely book about the bonds between siblings and would be perfect for a reader who loves well-realized characters. I very much enjoyed it and highly recommend it!
  • (4/5)
    The Skinner family is shaped by two deaths. Early on, their father dies, leaving the four siblings with an incapacitated mother who retreats into what they call 'The Pause.' In adulthood, the death of a sibling leaves the other three adrift and dealing with questions surrounding the death. In between those two deaths, the siblings become adults whose lives are shaped by their childhood and family life, as we all are. The story is narrated by Fiona, the youngest, who is a writer and a poet. As she looks back on her life in the telling of it, she realizes that she never had the whole picture, just parts as she could understand them. I enjoyed this book and its exploration of family love, family grief, and dysfunction. The characters were appealing and the story kept me reading.
  • (2/5)
    The family had to move to a smaller house and a not-so-nice neighborhood and to fend for themselves because they only saw their mother when she decided to venture out from her bedroom.Renee was the oldest, Caroline was next in line, Joe was the only boy, and Fiona was the baby when it all happened. They called this time their mother was absent The Pause. The Pause went on for a few years.The children did well for a while, but then things started to get tough. Renee couldn’t take the responsibility, and the other children couldn’t do without her. They started going their separate ways and weren’t as close knit as they had been until one day another adult stepped in, got them some help, and got their mother Antonia out of bed.Things looked up after that, and the family unit worked better together as everyone grew up.We learn of what happened to each family member whether good or bad. They all loved each other and were there for each other.I was disappointed in this book even though it has Ms. Conklin's beautiful, detailed writing.THE LAST ROMANTICS was not an appealing read or of interest, and I struggled to read it in its entirety especially since I LOVED her first book.I know I am in the minority for opinions. 2/5This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NETGALLEY and in print in exchange for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is the kind of book that gets into your heart, and very nearly breaks it in the process. In this age of stories told by unreliable narrators with their thrilling domestic suspense and their big reveals it is refreshing to read “just a story” about regular people and their everyday lives. There is no giant drama, just the quiet drama of life, with all its ups and downs and joys and sadness.But The Last Romantics isn’t really just a story. It’s a tale that grabs you from the very first page and won’t let go. Things can change in a moment – what seemed so good is now oh so bad. Life can be cruel. Four seemingly happy, innocent children, through no fault of theirs, have their perfect life pulled right out from under them. Their father suddenly dies, and nothing is the same after that. That perfect life, with the perfect parents and the perfect home, is no more. They are forced to move. And their mother stops being a mother. Their lives are forever changed.The story is told from the perspective of Fiona, the youngest child. She has become a renowned poet, and at her first public appearance in 25 years, and at the age of 102, is asked about the inspiration for her iconic work. Her response is spellbinding and begins with the death of her father. It’s a sprawling tale of love and loss and betrayal, of how relationships are formed and destroyed, of how and why people become who they are, and of how family is always still family.I received an advanced copy of The Last Romantics from the publisher William Morrow, but my opinions are my own and I was not required to provide a review. I found The Last Romantics to be fascinating, gripping, riveting. The writing is strong and the characters very well developed. You can’t help but get lost in their story. I will not soon forget The Last Romantics and highly recommend it.
  • (3/5)
    The Last Romantics opens with a sequence that inspires reading on to solve the mystery of women named Luna.Unfortunately, despite my love for poetry, romance, and baseball, interest flags because none of the main characters resonate.Unsavory Noni. Joe, the addict. Lying, sex driven Fiona. Boring Carolyn. Good and loyal Nathan. Underdeveloped Will and Jonathan. Uneven Renee.Meanwhile, the plot gets overwhelmed with both family secrets and an abundance of fatalistic foreshadowing.By the time something actually happens, many readers simply will not care.Many practical matters also go unexplained, like where did the money come from to support the family during the three year "Pause?"
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book. The characters were believable. It's well-written. There were a few problems. One was the way it is framed as if it's being told from a vantage point many years from now when all sorts of things are going wrong in civilization but we are never told exactly what those things are and people seem to do most things exactly the same way they do things now.That's a minor quibble though, as the story is mostly set in the past.Another was I found it hard to believe that some things that the author says were kept secret could have been--for example. that Fiona's husband doesn't know anything about her search for Luna, which is portrayed as very time consuming. Overall, though I found this a compellingly good read. I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program.
  • (4/5)
    This is a family saga about four siblings. They lose their father at a relatively young age and during the period immediately afterward, where their mother tunes out for a while (a period they refer to as "The Pause"), they form a special sibling bond which, unbeknownst to them at the time, affects their relationship with each other throughout the years. Joe, the only male sibling, pulls them together in a special way which none of them really realize or appreciate at the time. As they advance through adulthood and each make their own life choices, they diverge and are brought back together by an unexpected tragedy. I've had Tara Conklin's previous book, The House Girl, on my to-be-read pile for quite some time, though haven't yet read that one, despite its acclaim. The Last Romantics became available to me as an advanced reader copy, and knowing the popularity of her previous book, I was more than happy to dive into this one. For the most part, this was well written, and as with most family sagas, I enjoyed following the siblings from their youth into adulthood, and further still into their advanced years. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Fiona, the youngest sibling, and while the majority of the book follows along in chronological order, there are several interludes that fast forward into the future, where Fiona is 102 years old, an established poet, and is at a gathering explaining the background for her most well-known book of poetry, which is based on her family. In these sections, there are references to some sort of past and ongoing climate change, and regular safety drills which seem to occur on a regular basis. While a small aspect of these forward flashes in time relates to the story, it mostly served as a distraction and it just didn't quite seem to mesh with the rest of the story. Based on other reviews I've read of this book, other readers have had the same reaction. While the book was good on the whole, I think I would have rated it higher, had this aspect been fleshed out better and not seemed so distracting and disjointed.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this book. Could relate to the characters. I thought the descriptions of "The Pause" were excellent. A couple jaw-dropping moments mixed into very believable, interesting, real life. Up-to-date & modern and yet down to earth. Good storytelling. A very good read. Well done, Tara Conklin.
  • (4/5)
    This was an early review book and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I really liked The House Girl but this was much different from that novel. For many pages I was wondering where the story was going and why I should care about the characters. It grabbed me immediately by the first chapter being set in 2079. There were comments that allowed the reader to think that something terrible may have happened but there is never much explanation as to what had happened or was happened. A throw-away line that the 2nd Amendment "hadn't made it" but nothing more. I think the author wanted to put a lot in the book but then ran out of space. By page 168 I was wondering why I was still reading. The last 80 pages of the book were the best but I felt the author was just trying to wrap up the story. There were also a few chapters where I wasn't certain which sister was speaking and would have to go back and try to figure it out. I just think this book could have been so much more than it was.
  • (5/5)
    Even though the story frame was a bit clunky, I truly enjoyed this book. The Last Romantics is a well written look at the bonds between family members, warts and all. The characters, all realistically flawed, were very believable/relatable. As for the end of the novel - WOW. Just WOW. I highly recommend Tara Conklin's latest work.
  • (4/5)
    There are events in life that shape people, forge them, become an integral piece of who they are. Sometimes these events are seemingly insignificant and other times they are clearly big, life-changing occasions. In Tara Conklin's newest novel, The Last Romantics, two of these huge, defining events happen back to back, leading inexorably toward an outcome and an ending that feels fated, determined by the past and written from the beginning.Ellis Skinner was 34 when he died suddenly, leaving behind 4 children, ranging in age from 11 to 4, and a wife who had no idea of the dismal state of their finances until her dentist husband is gone. Mother Noni falls into an all consuming depression that lasts for years and that the children call The Pause, during which they must fend for themselves, running a little feral and solidifying each of them into the person she and he will grow to be as adults. Renee is the oldest, driven to take on the responsibility of her younger siblings, taking care of others before herself. Eight year old Caroline is the worrier, leaning into family, although not to her own family but to the Duffy crew the Skinner kids meet that first summer. Seven year old Joe is the golden child, beloved by everyone but whose troubles are either hidden, ignored, or explained away, leaving him searching for what he's missing, first through baseball and then through alcohol. And four year old Fiona, the baby of the family is the observer, coming to hold the family story close and finally to record it through her poetry, to give it voice. The children persevere and survive and eventually Noni comes out of her crushing depression but the siblings always wonder about her emotional resiliency and protect her from any unpleasantness until there is no way to protect her or their own hearts.The story is framed, and occasionally interrupted, by celebrated poet Fiona Skinner at a reading in 2079, answering audience questions, one of which leads her to tell her family's story, continuing on even during a power outage that seems to stretch on and become slightly sinister. Fiona, now 102 years old and quite famous, narrates the majority of the story in the first person, slowly revealing long held secrets and highlighting the enduring bond that grew between the four Skinner siblings in the aftermath of their father's death and their mother's retreat. The narration occasionally shifts to third person when Conklin wants to show the reader a closer look at what is going on with the other three siblings that Fiona could not have known. The shifts are smooth but sometimes they are so subtle, it takes the reader a minute to adjust to the fact that the focus has changed. The sibling relationships are the anchor of this novel. They are messy and sometimes frayed, but the strength of the Skinners' history with each other keeps them forever tethered no matter how far they may roam. The conceit of the future setting seems unnecessary as there are only small hints of the reality of life in 2079; the real story is that of Fiona's childhood into adulthood, perhaps even as far as middle age. The beginning is a little slow but the occasional allusions to further tragedy will keep the reader engaged in the story and invested in these flawed but oh so real feeling siblings. The end comes quickly, even as events come fast and furious, each sibling's life wrapped up in just a few sentences once Fiona has revealed what she has lived with for so long. Each character is scarred, perhaps not visibly like two of the minor characters, but marked nonetheless, forever carrying proof of the pain they endured but eventually allowing it to heal and be relegated to the past. This is a sensitive, well-written look at love, responsibility, addiction, mental health, and grief in a family fractured and mended over and over again and fans of sibling books and of families struggling but ultimately uniting will enjoy this for sure.
  • (4/5)
    A family saga that spans a century. A story of sibling relationships, how they grow close due to a family situation, come apart, and finally come together again, albeit not the same. Conklin does an excellent job looking into her characters lives with a keen insight and a generosity towards the flaws each holds within. The pacing is terrific, despite the time period it covers it never feels rushed. Fiona, the youngest sister is our narrator, and her experiences as the youngest in a family of four seems authentic and real. Although I'm not quite sure that she should have the knowledge she has towards what the others are thinking and seeing. That is the only minor quibble I have, though it is effective.There are a few unexpected twists, roadblocks thrown in here and there, the things many of us have to deal with a times. Ultimately, this is a novel about love, what we survive, what we forgive and what we pretend not to know to spare another. It is about growing and reacting to the situations we experience. There is happiness, sadness, challenges, all the things of which life and family are made. I enjoyed this, though the ending was a little more emotional that I would have liked. But like life, perfection is not always possible and I enjoyed these characters very much."For many years loved seemed to me not something that enriched or emboldened but a blind hole into which you fell, and in the falling you forgot what it was to live in your own light."ARC from Edelweiss.
  • (5/5)
    This follows the Skinner family from childhood to adulthood and how they deal with death, love, and life. I liked this story. I liked Fiona's first person point-of-view. I liked the Skinner children. I was ambivalent about Noni. The character development is fantastic. I came to know each one and could figure out what they would do in a particular situation. I liked how the story starts in the future then flashes back to the present day times as Fiona tells her story. There is a lot to think about in the story and relate it to today's happenings. I wanted to know Fiona's story as much as Luna did. I was riveted.
  • (4/5)
    A special thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Renowned poet, Fiona Skinner, is asked about the inspiration behind "The Love Poem," her most iconic piece. The poem is actually a story about her family and a betrayal that spans years.The Skinner siblings—Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona—are in limbo. They are caught between their previous life when their father was still alive, and their uncertain future without him. His death sets in motion several events: Joe's baseball career, the Pause (a period of time where their mother was incapable of leaving her bedroom), moving to a smaller home, and one unsupervised summer where they were almost feral by its end. But what happened that summer was that they forged a deep connection and became incredibly loyal to one another.Two decades later the family is once again marred by tragedy and the siblings are left questioning how deep their bonds really are, their own life choices, and just how far they will go for true love.Conklin's intimate portrait of the Skinners speaks to family obligation, resentment, tragedy, and above all, love. More specifically, the kind of love that is eclipsed by grief and how one family is changed forever after such a monumental loss.This sweeping and moving novel spans a large period of time. Conklin tackles the early years with ease but as the Skinners grow, the more dysfunctional and unlikeable they become. Unfortunately this is how she propels the narrative and I couldn't engage with the older versions of the characters. Also problematic was the futuristic dystopian parts, they didn't work or fit with the style of the rest of the narrative and caused unnecessary bulk. Ultimately what saves the book is Conklin's beautiful writing—I loved The House Girl and really enjoyed parts of this book.
  • (4/5)
    I received an advance reader copy from the Goodreads giveaway program in exchange for this review. The Last Romantics was a novel that was easy to fall into, well written and nicely paced. The four siblings at the center of the story provide realistic depictions of family dynamics, the good and the bad. There are some serious messages here about the challenges of parenthood, about career building, and about dealing with grief. It was an interesting twist to set parts of the narrative in 2079 with ominous overtones of future climate issues. A good book for readers who enjoy family sagas.
  • (4/5)
    The aging Poet, Fiona, begins to answer questions about her milestone work, The Love Poem, to students both reverent and aggressive in their need to draw the truth from her as an author. Each story has its truth, its context, none quickly shared or understood, and while the inquisitors may get restless with the delivery of interconnecting pieces, the reader will not. The Last Romantics delves into a cluster of siblings whose life threads and memories are tangled together in ways that can be revealed in careful unraveling. Engaging, set later in our century with memories in our present, Conklin keeps us with her through the ride.