It is five days before Christmas when Alex’s younger brother, Ty, commits suicide: a shotgun blast to his chest. He had stayed home from school, ran certain errands and, it seems, carefully planned the day. Her mother is coping by going to work, coming home, having a glass or three of wine and crying. Her parents divorced several years ago and, while Alex sees her father weekly for dinner, the time is taken up with idle conversation, so his emotions barely play a role in this book. Alex is barely coping herself.
Alex’s therapist has suggested antidepressants to which Alex is vehemently opposed. So, instead he recommends that she keep a journal as an outlet for her emotions. Possibly direct the entries to someone in particular, and describe firsts and lasts.
Both Alex and her mother often seem to find themselves in Ty’s basement bedroom. On one such visit Alex thinks she smells his cologne and sees him leaning against the wall. On another visit she finds a letter in a desk drawer addressed to Ashley, his former girlfriend. She and her neighbor (and former best friend), Sadie, debate the merits of giving the letter to Ashley. Sadie is addicted to shows about mediums and thinks Ty’s appearances are due to unfinished business which Alex must complete.
For some reason I feel like I’ve read a similar book recently but I can’t remember the title. In it as well as The Last Time We Say Goodbye there is a letter to a former girlfriend left by the suicide. (If you have any ideas, let me know.) Of course the letter has a cathartic impact on the recipient.
As I imagine is the case in most suicides several people feel they could have prevented Ty’s actions, when truth be known, most of the time those last actions would have been too late. That is a hard lesson to learn and accept. Additionally, everyone reacts differently to loss of a loved one, which is evident in The Last Time We Say Goodbye. As the book jumps back and forth between Alex’s journal, present day and recollection, it concentrates on the survivors, and less so on why Ty did what he did. There are vague hints, but nothing that over time would suggest suicide as being inevitable. This might have put everything in a better perspective for the reader.
Having said all of this, I found The Last Time We Say Goodbye a good read. I liked the characters, although, as I said, you don’t get much of a feel for Ty. The emotions seemed real. The interaction between Alex and her friends and family is understandable. And hey, it has as happy an ending as a book about suicide can have.
I must be in my ‘reading suicide’ phase because I just started All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, which starts off with a teen thinking of suicide. So, I think after this, I’ll move on to a happy book. Any suggestions?
Read Full Post »