“Such extraordinary emotions in the space of paragraphs.” – Thoughts on The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
I hate you, Anita Shreve.
I hate you for writing The Last Time They Met. For making me fall in love and breaking my heart, all at once, on the same (last) page. I hate how you pretty much destroyed my hope in finding love as perfect and enduring and dangerous as that of Linda and Thomas. I will now probably end up an old maid with delusions of love so grand, there is no possibility whatsoever that I will find it. All thanks to you.
I hate you for creating a character like Thomas: a man who has his faults, but who loves with such a passion that all faults are forgotten. You just made me go against my personal standard of not falling for men who smoke, all for someone who unfortunately exists only on paper and in your words.
Thomas, oh Thomas. Who aged so beautifully backwards, whose poetry I was never able to read (yes, women who are reading this, this lovely character writes poetry!) but for which I am willing to bet a limb on is beautiful prose. Thomas, whose love never waned from boyhood to manhood to old age, despite all the sad in-betweens and heart-wrenching subplots to the story. I caught myself asking – nay, praying – if the good Lord will permit him to come alive, so that I may look for him, find him and fall in love with him, in the hopes that he will love me in return. But then I realized this cannot be – nay, this shouldn’t be – because I am no Linda: I am not the woman he was meant to be with.
And Linda, whom I envied with such conviction because she was capable of love so enduring that it survived personal tragedies, subsequent relationships, distance and time. Linda, compared over and over to Magdalene – a fallen woman. And yet despite that she had the luck of the draw; she, whose soulmate was a man equally, if not more, madly in love with her as she is with him.
I hate you for writing The Last Time They Met the way it’s written: backwards, like reading a book from the last page forward. And yet, it never read like a flashback or a memory or a reminiscent. Oddly, Thomas and Linda seemed to have grown more as they aged younger, from fifty-two, to twenty-six, to seventeen, yet at the same time they also seemed more bare as the story progressed; like watching an artist paint on tape and in rewind: a complete portrait, fully painted, worked in reverse until all that remained were the sketches, skeletal. But aren’t skeletons the basic means of support?
I hate you for giving them writing professions, for making Thomas a poet, and for letting him tell Linda that she’s cut out for novels than poems (“Did you become a poet because of me?”). I hate you for including an exchange of letters, for allowing a peek more intimate than any narration could ever hope to achieve: words written by the characters themselves, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, overall inadequate. As Linda first wrote to Thomas: “I think that words corrupt and oxidize love. That it is better not to write of it.”
And to which Thomas promptly replied: “Write me. For God’s sake, keep writing.”
I am running out of words as to how your book has ruined me, Anita Shreve. And so I will resort to quoting from their brief exchange of love letters – a more adequate show of the agony you have put me through:
“So much has been left unsaid.”
Ugh, Anita Shreve. Your book has turned me into a blabbering lovestruck buffoon.
PS. The ending was the death of me. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.