All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Always The Last To Know by Kristan Higgins

on July 22, 2021

Always The Last To Know
Kristan Higgins
Berkley Books
2020, 400p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: The Frosts are a typical American family. Barb and John, married almost fifty years, are testy and bored with each other…who could blame them after all this time? At least they have their daughters– Barb’s favorite, the perfect, brilliant Juliet; and John’s darling, the free-spirited Sadie. The girls themselves couldn’t be more different, but at least they got along, more or less. It was fine. It was enough.

Until the day John had a stroke, and their house of cards came tumbling down.

Now Sadie has to put her career as a teacher and struggling artist in New York on hold to come back and care for her beloved dad–and face the love of her life, whose heart she broke, and who broke hers. Now Juliet has to wonder if people will notice that despite her perfect career as a successful architect, her perfect marriage to a charming Brit, and her two perfect daughters, she’s spending an increasing amount of time in the closet having panic attacks.

And now Barb and John will finally have to face what’s been going on in their marriage all along.

Last week I had a book to pick up at my local library and there were rumours going around that we’d be going into lockdown again so I thought while I was there picking up my reserved book, I’d grab a few others as well. It wasn’t supposed to be a long lockdown, hopefully just a short one to get contacts of positive cases into isolation and allow contact tracers time to find everyone. I always find reading a perfect escape in lockdowns and although I don’t lack books at home, I love having variety. So I walked the fiction shelves and grabbed a few off the display shelf that looked interesting. I’ve read a few Kristan Higgins books before, some I’ve loved, some have been okay and this one looked recent and I didn’t know anything about it but the blurb had me sold.

And I loved this book! I picked it up late that same afternoon and I was sorry I had waited so long because it meant that I didn’t get time to finish it in one day. This is such an excellent study of relationships and family and how different people in the same family just see and experience things very differently.

John and Barb have been married for over fifty years but for a long time, they’ve just really been going through the motions. They suffered years of infertility before Barb fell pregnant with Juliet and motherhood was such a perfect experience for her. Barb and Juliet were a team from the very beginning and she’s Barb’s pride and joy. Sadie came along 12 years later and that was a very different and unexpected experience and she never really felt that she bonded with her the way she did with Juliet. Sadie felt like she was John’s rather than Barb and the two of them never came to see eye to eye, even as Sadie came into adulthood. In contrast, Juliet and Barb just grew closer and closer and Barb couldn’t be prouder of her: Ivy League education, excellent job as an architect, wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, lives close by. Sadie in contrast, wanted to be an artist, a career Barb didn’t really rate and moved to New York for college and lives in a 1-bedroom apartment. Not married, no children. Barb feels like she can’t relate to Sadie and their relationship is very distant. Sadie and John however, remain incredibly close and John’s stroke brings Sadie home in a way that Barb suspects an accident to her would not.

This is told from multiple perspectives: Barb’s, Juliet’s, Sadie’s and even John’s as he recovers from his stroke and tries to make sense of things with a mind that is no longer what it was. I really loved reading from these different perspectives and seeing how Sadie viewed her relationship with Barb vs how Barb saw her relationship with Sadie and the factors that both thought had contributed to this. I thought this was done so well, likewise we get the same sort of insight into Juliet and Sadie’s relationship. With 12 years between them they’ve never been particularly close and both feel certain ways about the other: Sadie nicknames Juliet “Perfection from Conception” due to their mother’s feelings about Juliet and Juliet feels that Sadie just sails through life and things work out for her, she never has to work for anything.

Being back in her hometown also brings Sadie back into the orbit of her teenage/college boyfriend, a man who broke her heart (and whose heart she broke) when they couldn’t see a way forward with their incompatible dreams and lifestyles. I really enjoyed Sadie and Noah. None of their issues from years ago have been resolved (and their are several other complications) but there are still residual feelings and the way this played out felt really believable. Especially with Sadie’s recognition of what she wants versus what she can actually have.

I just found this so engrossing on all levels – all of the characters were interesting and the way in which their different perspectives were shown were just such an insight into family dynamics and their complications. Likewise we get a lot of insight into the marriage of John and Barb (mostly from Barb, as John is less capable of deep reflection) but there’s enough from both sides, to show how marriages can stall, how things like struggling with infertility (which is often a struggle Barb feels like she faces alone) and differing parenting roles, can play a part in driving distance between a couple.

This was an excellent start to my lockdown 5.0 reading.

9/10

Book #224 of 2021


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