Monday, October 25, 2021

‘The Last Time We Say Goodbye’ by Cynthia Hand




“It’s like the universe is giving me this opportunity. If I believed in that sort of thing.”

“The Last Time We Say Goodbye” is every reason I love to laugh and hate to cry. I’m torn in two about how I feel about this book, this storyline, and the conclusion, but I loved it and I think it’s a book to add value to this column, even though the subject is heavy and when I started to read, I didn’t think it would be one of the books I would write about. Obviously, I changed my mind.

The story is told in first person through Alexis, the sister of the boy who committed suicide. It opens with her writing in a journal, and right away her personality is clear in my mind. She’s a little bit snarky, completely sarcastic, and at the same time vulnerable. It’s her quirky personality that makes her grief seem so much more difficult for her to go through. I thought the author did a great job with relating to Lexie’s inner turmoil and putting her emotions so clearly on the page. The journal entries show the reader Lexie’s memories with her brother, and as with any brilliant story arc, the author portrays Lexie’s journey through all the stages of grief.



Coming to terms with anyone’s death can be a lifelong healing process, and there are a lot of ways to write about loss. By using a suicide, this book gives the readers a chance to experience the over-thinking, blaming, anger, and doubt that occurs after the act has already happened. Parts of how this was dealt with bothered me, but I think a good book will make the reader question the thoughts and actions of all the characters. That said, this book feels like it follows a certain path that will result in successfully coming to terms with the tragedy: brother commits suicide, parents are divorced, sister is sent to a therapist, and therapist recommends writing in a journal.

It’s definitely an emotional read, but I found myself laughing too. Lexie has this personality that made me feel like everything she was going through was ten times worse, and the way she dealt with those things, the path she took to finding a way to blame everyone and then forgive everyone just added that bit of humor, that relief in the exact place on the page, to give me a breath before I kept reading with my heart in my throat.

Now, here’s where I get personal. Suicide happens. It is horrible. Students in high school commit suicide. Students in the high school where I taught language arts committed suicide. No one has definitive answers on prevention — were there signs or did it come out of nowhere — or how to make sense of the emotions in the aftermath — blame depression, bullying, broken family, negative trend… It doesn’t exactly matter after the fact. What matters is that a person is changed after someone they know has committed suicide and the healing process is different for everyone. Each person will go through a singular journey to come to terms with what happened, and that’s why I ultimately decided this book was worth five stars. The author took an unbearable situation and created a believable and achievable outcome for Lexie.

Overall, this book allows the reader to experience the overarching grief of a teenage girl. The author gives us one perspective in reaction to a terrible death, and I think she does a great job keeping it relevant, contemporary, and genuine.

Next up? A mystery by a local author, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to include a brief interview with the author. So many times I have burning questions after I finish a book, and I’m hopeful this author will be able to answer mine!

As always, thanks for your time!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership

Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.

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