Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
Publication Date: 2009
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #45
The Short Version:
Leaving, following, disappearing, and obsessing are all elements of the relationships in this story of several lives intertwined over many years.
Why I Read It:
I’d heard great praise for the author’s most recent book and this one was also highly recommended at S. Krishna’s Books.
Eli’s girlfriend Lilia leaves to get coffee and never returns. Eli admits that Lilia had some odd habits, but he never saw this disappearance coming at all. While he’s devastated, he also wonders where she is and if she’s safe. When he gets a mysterious postcard from Montreal saying “she’s here” he’d like to feel better, but he doesn’t know who this Michaela is who sent him the card, nor does he have any idea how she knew where to send it.
Eli’s trip to Montreal is interspersed with the story of Lilia’s past. She spent most of her life leaving and disappearing, beginning when she was a child and her father took her away from her mother’s home one snowy night. Pursued by a private detective they spend years on the move changing identities and never really forming long term relationships.
Also in the mix is the story of Michaela’s childhood and her connection to both Lilia and Eli.
I really don’t want to say more than that about the plot because it’s the questions of how it would all intersect and connect or not that kept me reading.
I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. While I thought the writing was beautiful at times, I never really felt any connection to the characters or story. I found myself easily distracted from the book while reading it and it took me longer than most books of this length to read.
Granted, part of the not feeling connected to the characters was that all of them were fairly disconnected from entanglements and relationships themselves, so to that extent the author did an excellent job of portraying them.
There are several minor mysteries that play out as the story progresses in terms of how all the characters became entangled and the truth about events in the past that both Lilia and Michaela are seeking. Some of the answers turned out to be fairly predictable, and while the ending wraps things up, it left me with an unsettled feeling.
The book is full of wonderful moments in writing and fabulous images, but I just never felt connected or invested in the story. I definitely remained detached. I did enjoy the writing enough that I plan to read more by this author.