Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story

Image of Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story
Release Date: 
August 17, 2015
Atria Books
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Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story is a novel in the genre of literary fiction, primarily taking place in New York City.

Renee Carlino’s love story of Grace and Matt brings both warmth and sorrow to the page. Their tale traverses between modern day occurrences and backstory to their college years 15 years earlier. Grace, a gifted cello player, and Matt, a budding photographer, find love between the walls of NYU.

The nostalgia of New York City adds to the narrative of Before We Were Strangers. Matt and Grace first met in the Senior House dorms of NYU, while he was moving a large desk into his dorm room and couldn’t help but notice Grace sitting in the lounge reading a magazine.

“We had never met, I was sure of that. No one could forget a face like hers.

I remained still, transfixed, as I took her in. She had big, incandescent green eyes, alit with energy that demanded attention.”

Fast friends and slow lovers, their connection develops immediately, bonding over mutual admiration for each other and certain musicians. “You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.”

While post-graduation life tears them apart and onto separate tracks, decades pass with both of them knowing they let the love of their life slip through their fingers. Standing on a subway track, Matt catches a glimpse of Grace 15 years after they last saw one another. In a flash, the long, thick blonde ponytail and green eyes disappear into the dark tunnel of the subway. Matt’s job at National Geographic is wearing him down, his ex-wife is pregnant with her new husband, and Matt can only focus on one thing: finding Grace again and to not let her, or the music they made together, go.

Matt’s Craigslist “Missed Connections” ad finds its way to Grace. Once reconnected, a magnifying glass is put on what the many years between their “then and now” has done to their relationship. Yet the foundation of love surfaces through the struggles they faced, the decisions they made, and the impact other people had on their relationship.

Carlino deftly tackles the telling of their story and addresses the simplicities and complexities of soulmate love. Simple in that Matt and Grace (the Green-Eyed Lovebird, as Matt nicknames her) are strongly aware that the other is their soulmate, a fact and feeling that haunts them for well over a decade. Complications in that life and other people’s actions often throw off the course of a relationship. But the truth always comes out and love always wins, despite the losses along the way.

Before We Were Strangers is a compelling tale about missed opportunities and how love conquers all.