Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Reading this, I got caught up in its spell. It’s not a perfect novel, but the story of obsession, loss and searching transfixed me.

Lilia was kidnapped by her father when she was young and has been constantly traveling since then, eventually leaving behind everyone everyone she meets, including those who care about her, like Eli her lover in New York. She just can’t stay.

Forever is the most dizzying word in the English language. The idea of staying in one place forever was like standing at the border of a foreign country, peering over the fence and trying to imagine what life might be like on the other side, and life on the other side was frankly unimaginable.

Eli heads to Montreal in pursuit of her and meets Michaela, a young woman who says she knows how to contact Lilia. The basic story revolves around these three, their feelings for each other and their search for their own identities, culminating in the last night the three of them are together in Montreal. Interspersed throughout the narrative are flashbacks of Lilia’s childhood on the road with her father, allowing the reader to understand the questions that haunt Lilia and why she finds it so hard to stay with anyone. Parts of the story are also told through a private detective’s viewpoint. The detective, who is Michaela’s father, becomes obsessed with the case and continues to follow Lilia long after the contract expires. The present and past are seamlessly intertwined, and we the readers are witnesses to it all, to the losses, the tragedies, the dreams.

In all honesty, I didn’t actually like any of the characters. I felt sorry for them, wondered what drove them, what secrets they hid, but didn’t like them as people. That didn’t matter. Mandel’s lyrical writing and the pace of the story kept me involved, kept me reading. I shared excerpts of the book in a Teaser Post here and as part of another review here, if you’re interested.

Overall, I loved it. It’s not the most exciting book, but it’s a beautiful look at love and loss, the meaning of family and the nature of obsession.

Originally published June 2, 2009 by Unbridled Books
247 pages

Challenge: 100+

I purchased my copy and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.


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