Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Last Forever

Caletti, Deb. The Last Forever. New York: Simon Pulse, 2014. Print.

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Plot Summary (from inside book jacket)
Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it's all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there's her dad. He's stuck in his own daze, and it's so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father's solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town, at Tessa's grandmother's. Despite all the warmth and beauty there, Tessa can't help but feel even more lost.

Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more important, he understands her. A secret stands between them, but Tessa's willing to do anything to bring them together--because Henry may just be her one chance at forever.

My Thoughts
I was surprised by this book. The story is not exactly what I thought it would be. I expected a mushy, gushy love story. What I got was a humorous read that did have a hint of love, but it was also a bigger story of human love--love between generations--love between friends--love as encouragement.

Caletti hooked me early in the book when she describes the hotel that Tess and her father stay at on their road trip. This humor and wit fill the pages.
We stay at the Piney Woods Lodge. The name makes you think of stone fireplaces and stuffed elk heads and downy beds, but it is actually one of those two-leveled motels you see in movies where someone always OD's. No one ever OD's in a La Quinta in the movies. It's always these places with windows looking out onto a parking lot and gold room numbers on the doors. 
Well, of course, it smells like cigarettes in there. Not a recent cigarette, but one that was smoked sometime in the 1970s. (Caletti 26)
This made me laugh out loud. I even read it to my husband (trying to get through the description while laughing) because I found it so funny (and so true!).

I must confess that I was swayed a bit to like this book because Caletti writes about a library in a most favorable way (and it's an important setting piece of the story). I love her description early in the book. When Tess finds the Parrish Island Library, "Relief washes over me. I love the library. I have always felt safe in the library. It's like seeing the entrance of a church. I want to set myself down there like an abandoned baby in a basket" (Caletti 56).  On one visit, Tess says while at the library, "the quiet, the soft chair--take me in and give me comfort. I'm surrounded by stories and answers and years and years of volumes of the right words....That great musty smell of the library speaks of solid, timeless things, old and lasting ones" (Caletti 60). However, Caletti's description that I enjoyed the most was when Tess explains:
Usually I set one foot in a library and I feel my own internal volume lower. A library is a physical equivalent of a sigh. It's the silence, sure, but it's also the certainty of all those books, the way they stand side by side with their still, calm conviction. It's the reassurance of knowledge in the face of confusion. But now, even in my most favorite calm place, my heart is like a racehorse. (Caletti 85)
I feel a little like this each morning when I go to work. Of course, I appreciated the nod to librarians everywhere when one character says, "never underestimate a determined librarian" (Caletti 239).

Each chapter starts with information about a different plant. I thought about how much research Caletti must have done to include this. I also wondered if she is an avid gardener? or is the information even true? I quickly saw the parallel to keeping plants alive is akin to people. This advice reminded me of Sue Monk Kidd's book The Secret Life of Bees. 

There are many relationships in this book. The story opens with a father/daughter road trip, but then layers are added. New friendships are formed. Dreams are realized. It is believable. I liked when
one character explains that, "every person's story is either a little crazy or a lot crazy" (Caletti 129). Yep, and we need to realize that at certain times of our lives, the level of crazy changes.

The title reference is on page 206, 235, & 277.

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