Published by Atria Books on 18 August 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.
You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.
We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.
Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…
I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.
After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?
Second chance at love *sighs* my favorite trope when it comes to romance, and in Before We Were Strangers, that trope was brought to absolute perfection!
I loved that most of the chapters in Before We Were Strangers are from Matt’s perspective, and that I got a good look into the past and what he had with Grace his last year of college, and of his present, where not many things were going the way he wanted them to. After catching a glimpse of Grace at a metro station, seeing her recognize him, and desperately wanting to catch up with her, he finally found a drive to look forward. Scouring metro stations close to the one where he’d seen her, he ended up posting on Craig’s List to see if she’d give him a call.
There were many intricate relationships in Before We Were Strangers, starting with Matt’s colleagues – including his ex-wife and her new husband – or in the past his interactions with Grace and their friends, as well as the complicated relationship he had with his family. I think what I enjoyed the most was that feeling of longing Matt had, wanting to see Grace again, and figure out where they had gone wrong when they were younger. And how he was a bit torn between wanting to keep the past in the past – because what they had was a beautiful memory to him, but at the same time, he couldn’t help but ask himself if there was a chance of something more they could build together now that they were adults.
Without spoiling anything, let me just say that there are many more complications for Grace and Matt, and that a lot of what kept them apart had nothing to do with the two of them. When other people start to meddle, it’s almost impossible to get to the bottom of things, and I remember well how difficult it was to actually find ‘old’ acquaintances before the internet existed. Written in first person point of view, past tense and mostly from Matt’s perspective, Before We Were Strangers is a beautiful story of second chances, love, loyalty and dealing with betrayal as well. The writing is beautiful, I could have used so many quotes here, but I figured I needed to make a choice so there wold be something left for you to read when you pick it up yourself.
These are the things I pondered while sitting in my four-by-four cubicle at National Geographic. It hadn’t felt National or Geographic since I had taken a desk job there a few years before.
“Scott, this conversation is wrong in so many ways. Let’s just end it here, okay?”
“I’m your boss.”
New York has an energy that takes root inside of you. Even a transplant like me gets to know the different boroughs, like they’re living, breathing organisms. There’s nowhere else like it. The city becomes a character in your life, a love you can’t take out of you. the mysteriously human element about this place can make you fall in love and break your heart at the same time.
The first time someone young and vibrant dies – someone you look up to, someone you relate to – it blows you back, right off your feet. Oh, fuck, we’re all gonna die, nobody knows when, nobody knows how, you think. And in that moment, your realize how little control you have over your own destiny.