Grief can be one of the toughest emotions to capture, because each person tends to grieve a little unlike the other. With that being said– Bravo, Cynthia Hand for portraying the ugliness of grief so beautifully and so honestly.
I’ve read a lot of books recently that ended with death. You have picture-perfect moments through 3/4ths of the book and then the inevitable hits and your heart feels like it was put through some weird & tortuous organ shredder. I appreciate that Hand began with death and ended her story towards healing.
I will echo my sentiment written in my review of All the Bright Places. When an author and a reader share in the same experience and the work between the author and the reader reflect that experience, there is a magic that occurs. I lost a friend to suicide about 10 years ago to the month. Suicide is tricky. As Hand points out, there is a different tone to death when the death is occurred by the victims own hands.
“They took Ty’s name off the roster. The even expunged his school records for the year, as if they could erase his existence altogether.
I’d bet good money they didn’t do that kind of thing with Hailey McKennett, who lost her battle with cystic fibrosis two years ago, or Sammie Sullivan, who died of complications from pneumonia, or Jacob Wright, who was killed in a car crash driving home drunk from a party at Branched Oak Lake last summer. Jacob got a tree planted for him at the front of the school, a plaque under it that I pass every day walking in that reads WE’LL MISS YOU, J. Sammie got a moment of silence during first period that year and an entire page of the yearbook devoted to her memory. They read Hailey’s name at graduation.
But Ty got his locker packed up and delivered promptly back to my mother, before we’d even had a chance to bury him.
Because it was suicide.
Because they don’t want to seem like they’re condoning it.
There are also a lot of “what ifs”. What if I would have said this…done this…noticed this. After dealing with my own grief I still sometimes wonder if things could have ended differently than they did. But has Hand mentions so beautifully, the only person that could have helped him was him. At some point you have to come to peace with not only your loss but with yourself.
I can’t end this review without mentioning Lex. I LOVE her. She is logical, not emotional, slightly socially awkward, and she is who she is. She doesn’t strive to be something she’s not. She isn’t able to curse with conviction—which I can relate—and she views the world in a completely unique way. Honestly, I was thrilled that Hand made a Bones reference because it made it so easy to connect and understand her character. (Also Bones is my all-time favorite TV show, so, just reading that I knew this book would be a good one.)
The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a beautifully written portrayal of loss, understanding, guilt, grief, and most importantly healing. If you liked All the Bright Places or The Fault in Our Stars, add this to your list.
All opinions are my own and are not affiliated or endorsed with any company or organization.