Read This to Learn That: Tara Conklin’s “The Last Romantics” and The Family Saga

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I just finished Tara Conklin’s book The Last Romantics on a plane, and I wanted to call, “Attention: People in the emergency row. Have you read this book? You must, here, who wants to start? It’s a 6-hour flight, let’s move.”

I’m on the way to a vacation with my family, and I will force this upon them. Oh wait, I forgot, my mantra this year is I’m not trying to change anybody. Damn. I will instead sell this book with finesse that will force them to do what I say while feeling it is of their own volition. Ha!

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Families are complicated, and yet…

That’s about how you’d sum up this book. While fumbling through the first draft of my own novel and trying to figure out how I can skip an entire month without disconnecting the reader, Tara bops us back and forth among decades, around five or six lives. I was buckled in the whole time, asking only, “Where next?” as I flipped each short page that signaled a chapter’s end.

I’m so glad I was at a reading at Elliot Bay Books where Tara read from the book and told us a little bit about its history. She turned in the book to her agent, who then basically said, “Nope, not yet.” She taken another year or two to write it again and amassed 500 pages. Instead of carving into them to find the book she needed, she STARTED OVER. A worker. And we get to enjoy the smoothly polished finish.

Buy the book here!

Publisher’s description:


“A richly observed novel, both ambitious and welcoming.” — Meg Wolitzer

An Instant New York Times Bestseller


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“Conklin examines her characters’ lives with generosity and an unflinching eye for the complexities of love and family…. Fans of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections will find similar pleasures in the intelligence and empathy on display here.” — USA Today (four stars)

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love.

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

Buy the book here!

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