For fans of Jojo Moyes and the movie Before Sunrise, a sweeping love story inspired by a real-life missed connections story, from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the romantic women’s novels Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, and After the Rain.
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.
Matt and Grace were always meant to be together. As students at NYU, they fell in love with music, art, life, the city and each other. They shared a soul deep connection that only comes along once in a lifetime. But after graduation, they drifted apart.
Fifteen years later, Matt Shore feels like life has passed him by. Now a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer for National Geographic, he finds that he’s sacrificed happiness for success. So when he sees Grace again in a subway station, he begins to wonder if this is fate handing him yet another chance.
“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. At least, that’s the way I remember it. That’s why my mother always said we memorialize our past. Everything seems better in a memory.”
Graceland Marie Starr has changed so much in the last decade or so. She’s gone from the musically gifted girl who used to go out to eat pancakes for dinner in her pajamas to a woman who has accepted that her true love was lost forever.
Connecting with Matt again after all this time is her wildest dream come true. But can they really recapture what they once had or is there nothing left between them but regrets and memories?
“The present is our own. The right-this-second, the here-and-now, this moment before the next, is ours for the taking. It’s the only free gift the universe has to offer. The past doesn’t belong to us anymore, and the future is just a fantasy, never guaranteed. But the present is ours to own. The only way we can realize that fantasy is if we embrace the now.”
Before We Were Strangers is the first book by Renée that I have has the pleasure to read – and I can tell you that it certainly won’t be the last! She’s made me a forever fan with this achingly poignant and yet hopeful story. It’s not just her words that held me spellbound, but also the way she fashioned both music and NYC into actual characters. It added a dimension of emotion and energy to an already perfect work of art – and I will remember how it made me feel for a very long time…
For Matt & Grace...
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