I wrapped up my grandmother's tea cup collection and my mother's china, then grabbed a violin I'd hidden way back in my closet that made me cry, a gold necklace with a dolphin that my father gave me two weeks before he died of a heart attack when I was twelve and, at midnight, with that moon as bright as the blazes, I left Chicago.
When Jeanne Stewart stops at The Opera Man's Cafe in Weltana, Oregon, to eat pancakes for the first time in twelve years, she has no idea she's also about to order up a whole new future. It's been barely a week since she succumbed to a spectacularly public nervous breakdown in front of hundreds of the nation's most important advertising and PR people. Jeanne certainly had her reasons--her mother's recent death, the discovery that her boyfriend had been sleeping with a dozen other women, and the assault charges that resulted when Jeanne retaliated in a creative way against him, involving condoms and peanut oil.
Now, en route to her brother's house in Portland, Jeanne impulsively decides to spend some time in picturesque Weltana. Staying at a B&B run by the eccentric, endearing Rosvita, she meets a circle of quirky new friends at her court-ordered Anger Management classes. Like Jeanne, all of them are trying to become better, braver versions of themselves. Yet the most surprising discoveries are still to come--a good man who steadily makes his way into her heart and a dilapidated house that with love and care might be transformed into something wholly her own, just like the new life she is slowly building, piece by piece.
As heartfelt as it is hilarious, The Last Time I Was Me is a warm, wise novel about breaking down, opening up, and finally letting go of everything we thought we should be, in order to claim the life that has been waiting all along.
The author of Julia's Chocolates delivers a sometimes fun tale of revenge and rebirth that begins when narrator Jeanne Stewart discovers her longtime live-in boyfriend has been cheating on her. She exacts a creative revenge involving condoms and peanut oil (her boyfriend is allergic), resulting in Slick Dick suing her. His betrayal, following the death of her mother and weeks of working excessive hours, results in an embarrassing public nervous breakdown. Jeanne sells everything and lands in a small Oregon town, where, amid an eccentric cast, she enrolls in a court-ordered anger-management class and attempts to rebuild her life. Her initial recovery breakthrough occurs when she falls while running naked (this, strangely, is part of the program) along the river and a nice man helps her. When her brother urges Jeanne to work on a political campaign for Oregon's governor, Jeanne discovers the candidate is her river rescuer. Other irons in the fire include Jeanne's efforts to renovate a derelict house and her ex's looming lawsuit. Though initially charming, the book has a tendency to overload the narrative with sass and excessive wordplay, which slows the plot and keeps the reader at an uncomfortable distance. (May)
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
April 30, 2008
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