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The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Review by Hannah
In Laura Dave’s 2021 novel The Last Thing He Told Me, the main character Hannah recounts the story of how she met and later married her now-husband, Owen. Although they seem like a routine, unordinary, yet very loving couple, with Owen having a daughter, Bailey, from a previous marriage, Owen is a troubled man with dark secrets from his past. One day, the tech startup company Owen works for is unexpectedly investigated by federal law authorities for embezzlement, and he is forced to flee, leaving behind only a duffel bag with six hundred thousand dollars in cash and a note to Hannah saying, “Protect her.” Hannah knows that the note is Owen’s last wish of her providing for Bailey and desperate to find out what happened to her husband, Hannah embarks on a journey with her, who still harbors feelings of resentment towards Hannah, in order to uncover the truth about Owen’s sudden and eerie disappearance.
Dave’s stunning book toes the line between ignorance and truth, splendidly displaying Hannah’s feelings throughout the novel as she navigates her way through an unfamiliar world while trying to figure out the truth. At times, she wonders whether she is going too far, as she understands that what she finds out may devastate her and Bailey, as well as change her perception of Owen forever. Family bonding is also a prominent theme explored, delving particularly deep into the interactions between Hannah and Bailey, who initially have a rocky relationship. The novel illustrates how the most traumatic and heartbreaking situations can sometimes be the best method to strengthen bonds, something both Hannah and Bailey experience as they cope with the pain of the disappearance of their husband and father.
Even though the plot of the book is quite interesting, the characters had somewhat mundane personalities. Hannah is the picture-perfect example of a loving stepmother, who seemingly does whatever is possible in order to appease Bailey. She never becomes angry, has almost infinite patience, and always treats Bailey extremely well despite Bailey’s lack of reciprocation and cold responses. As a result, her character is somewhat two-dimensional, as she has no room for growth or improvement as the book progresses. Bailey also appears to have little motive for such a strong dislike and obvious disrespect towards her stepmother; it is understandable for her to be angry over the death of her mother at a young age, but her character development throughout the book seems quite cliché as she gradually grows to love and accept Hannah as her stepmother.
Fans of books with plot twists and unconventional family dynamics will enjoy reading The Last Thing He Told Me; additionally, it is a mystery novel that is better suited for young adults who prefer a mystery that isn’t too dark and twisted. Dave writes Hannah in a way that makes her first-person point of view relatable and keeps the reader engaged, making The Last Thing He Told Me a perfect read for someone who wants a quick and satisfying tale to keep them intrigued and entertained.
Check out The Last Thing he Told me from the Newport Beach Public Library!