Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Renee Carlino
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Pages: 320 pages
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?


“Once there was you and me
We were lovers
We were friends
Before life changed
Before we were strangers
Do you still think of me?”

I’ve had Before We Were Strangers for quite a while, and I’ve been wanting to read the book for so long now, but for some reason I have been putting it off. I remember being completely captivated by the synopsis of this one, and I immediately ordered a copy off The Book Depository because I haven’t seen a copy in the bookstores here in the Philippines. To be honest, when I started reading this the other day, I was debating whether or not this book was worth it. I was thrown off guard because I thought that this was going to be centering around adults around the age of 20-25, because the genre is new adult after all. However, I got two perspectives, starting with an already working male main character who was already divorced once, followed by their perspective set years ago back in college. It was not what I signed up for, and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it because of that. However, as I read on, I felt more and more connected to the story, and I began to love it.

“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.”

I’m not sure about this, but I think most of the story takes place when Matt and Grace were still in college years back. It shows how they became friends, and how their friendship developed into something more. Although it seemed like there was always something between them, Grace didn’t want a serious relationship then. It gave us a glimpse of how Matt’s photography career began, and how Grace developed her skills with the Cello. Separated by Matt’s leaving for a job in another country and some misunderstanding, the two never saw each other again. At present, Matt still works for National Geographic with his ex-wife and his boss as his best friend. Then, one day, Matt sees Grace on the train, so he created a post on Missed Connections, which created the bridge for them to meet at the present again.

“It was like the universe was teasing us; we saw each other just a second too late.”

My goodness, this book ripped my heart out to sheds! Although it has been more than a week since I read this book, I can still feel the hurt whenever I remember what transpired in the novel. There was a lot of deceit, hurt, misunderstanding, mistrust, and of course, love. It wouldn’t be complete without love, wouldn’t it? I really connected with the characters and the story, and although it was kind of predictable, it still ripped my heart to shreds. I felt like I could relate to the characters, although I wasn’t sure why. I was really able to put myself in their positions, and experience the story as they were experiencing it. My tears didn’t even care that people would judge me. It just continued to flow, because the emotions that this book made me feel were just too much.

“Life was passing me by at high speed as I sat back with my feet up, rejecting change, ignoring the world, shrugging off anything that threatened to have meaning of relevance.”

I really loved how the story turned out to be. It was kind of slow in the parts when they were in college, but the present point of view makes up for it in excitement. I love how the story was still kind of realistic, in how people just don’t forgive easily just because they love someone; especially because they love someone. I think the ending was a great way to tie things up, but of course I still can’t help but wish for more. Perhaps a companion novel from another character’s perspective?

“That’s why my mother always said we memorialize our past. Everything seems better in a memory.” 

Anyway, I really, really loved this story overall, and I would definitely recommend it! I really connected to the story, and there were so many amazing quotes in the novel as well. The emotions were just a shot straight through the heart for me, and although it hurt like hell, it felt amazing to feel all those along with the characters as well.

4.5 ughdssdfs stars. 

2 thoughts on “Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

  1. I'm so happy to see such a good review of this book because I've been contemplating reading it for a long while and never invested. I loved Carlino's first two books and for some reason haven't managed to finish any of her others. This sounds like such an interesting read, though. I love the missed connections idea and the switch from past to present so you can see how things changed. I just really like the concept and can't wait to read now.


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