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During their senior year of college, in an NYU dorm tucked into the heart of the East Village, Grace and Matt struck up a friendship over Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, and the Ramones. She was going to be a world-class cellist and he was going to be a famous photographer, their paths destined to diverge after graduation.

Even after an afternoon pub crawl ended in their drunken, spontaneous wedding, their visions for the future never overlapped enough for them to be together. The summer after college, he left his “ex-wife” on good terms and went to Brazil to work for National Geographic. They vowed to stay in touch and see each other soon.

They never did.

Fifteen years later, back in New York City, Matt sees Grace as she boards the J train. They’re both different in a hundred ways, and yet they’re still the same. But just as they recognize each other, just as he understands what he left behind all those years ago, the train pulls away. His only recourse is to send a missed connections letter out in the world, and hope she remembers where to look.

BOOK REVIEW: Before We Were Strangers

Renée Carlino


“You were always with me, Grace. I never found a way to let you go.”

It only takes one visit to New York City to understand why so many timeless works of fiction happen to take place here, why so many unforgettable love stories are inspired by this city, and just how many recognizable icons of this great metropolis are now reminders of some of the greatest books we’ve ever read. And we can now add another one to that list of greats. A love story spanning over more than a decade, this is the tale of two young people who simply met too soon in life to truly appreciate what they had found in one another, whose lives take off in different directions, but eventually bring them back to each other again, where they belonged all along, because their hearts would and could never love another. It’s a story that shows us that some loves have no expiry date, that some people are meant to be with one another no matter what, even when time is stolen from them, even when they are robbed of memories that could never be replaced, even when nothing could ever make them forget the bitter taste of regret from losing one another for so long. This was one of the most heartwarming romances I have ever read, a story I adored, and it made me miss the bustling streets of New York City even more, but knowing that next time I’m there, I’d be seeing it through these characters’ eyes too.

“You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t love another or move on; it just means that the one spontaneous moment, the split second that you took the leap, when your heart was racing and your mind was muddled with What ifs?—that moment—will never happen the same way again. It will never feel as intense as the first time.”

Matt Shore and Grace Starr met on their first day of senior year at college, and from the moment they laid eyes on one another, they became inseparable. Both creative, strong-willed and independent, their shared quirkiness makes them perfect partners in crime, always encouraging each other’s artistic affinities and ambitions, and becoming each other’s muses and greatest fans, until the connection between them inevitably outgrows the bounds of their friendship and transforms into a romantic one. But as their final year of college comes to an end, their relationship all too quickly falls apart, leaving them heartbroken and mournful of all they had lost, forever wondering if they’d ever find such happiness again as the one they had found in each other’s arms.

“We were victims of bad timing. But here we are again.”

Fifteen years later and now both in their mid thirties, they see one another again for just a moment in time, and suddenly nothing can stop the memories of their time together from invading their every thought. But when they finally find each other and all the lingering questions about those missing years are answered at last, they are left with even more resentment and regret, their love having survived it all, but once again put to the test as their hearts struggle to forgive for all that was stolen from them.

“I missed everything, Gracie. I missed everything.”

A heart-wrenching, truly unforgettable tale of second chances at love, of two people whose love never died, never even dimmed, even though what was taken from them could never be given back. I rarely connect with two characters this way—I loved their every quirk, their every imperfection, their every insecurity, but I loved loved loved the way their hearts loved each other the most. Ms Carlino has a flair for dreamy, passionate love stories that warm our hearts and feed every romantic bone in our bodies, but this time around, she has given us a true gem, a timeless tale of a never-ending love set against the backdrop of a magical city she captured oh-so perfectly, a tale that I suspect will become a favourite for many.

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“New York has an energy that takes root inside of you. Even a transplant like me gets to know the different boroughs, like they’re living, breathing organisms. There’s nowhere else like it. The city becomes a character in your life, a love you can’t take out of you. The mysteriously human element about this place can make you fall in love and break your heart at the same time. When you hear her sound, when you breathe in her scent, you share it with all the people walking beside you on the street, in the subway, or gazing from a tall building across Central Park. You know at once that you are alive, and that life is beautiful, precious, and fleeting.”

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: The Moment of Letting Go by J.A. Redmerski
EXCLUSIVE ALTERNATE POV SCENE: My Biggest Mistake by Leddy Harper

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