Last Seen Leaving

Last Seen Leaving

3.8 7
by Kelly Braffet

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As she did in her darkly thrilling debut, Josie and Jack, Kelly Braffet again explores the often ambiguous nature of love and danger in a riveting novel of suspense. When twenty-something drifter Miranda Cassidy wrecks her car one night on the way home from a bar, she seizes the accident as an opportunity to reinvent her life. Hitching a ride with a mysterious


As she did in her darkly thrilling debut, Josie and Jack, Kelly Braffet again explores the often ambiguous nature of love and danger in a riveting novel of suspense. When twenty-something drifter Miranda Cassidy wrecks her car one night on the way home from a bar, she seizes the accident as an opportunity to reinvent her life. Hitching a ride with a mysterious stranger, she finds quick work and a fresh start hundreds of miles away in an oceanside vacation town. She doesn’t look back, figuring no one is going to miss her. But when her mother finds no forwarding address, she senses something terrible has happened. The memory of the tragic disappearance of Miranda’s father years before and the force of long-buried emotions drive her on a frantic quest to find her daughter, no matter what the cost.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Deft . . . Braffet has a gift for creating an atmosphere of suspicion—and suspense.”—Francine Prose People Magazine

“Brainy, quirky, and bold, this is anything but your grandma’s cozy mystery novel.” Elle

"Dno't read [it] before bed, or else you'll never fall asleep." -- Jane Magazine

“[A] compelling tale of mother-daughter estrangement." Esquire

Publishers Weekly
Two women in crisis learn important lessons about "life and death and the nature of love" in Braffet's brilliant second novel (after 2005's Jack and Josie). Anne Cassidy, a 48-year-old New Age devotee living in Sedona, Ariz., knows something major has gone wrong when her daughter, Miranda, a college dropout and aimless drifter currently in Pittsburgh, Pa., doesn't answer her calls and Randa's phone is later disconnected. After two months, Anne must face a mother's worst fear--that her daughter has vanished. Meanwhile, Randa has crashed her car and left it to start a new life after accepting a ride from "George," an odd stranger who's either a serial killer or a covert CIA operative. George drops her off in Lawrence Beach, Va., where she takes a chambermaid job at a cheap motel. At the end of the tourist season, Randa's reduced to living in a friend's van while female bodies continue to surface in the seaside community. In Pittsburgh, Anne hunts for clues to her daughter's disappearance and revisits the equally disturbing disappearance of Nick, her pilot husband, in 1984. Fluid prose, vivid characters and suspenseful twists lead to a hopeful denouement. Author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Anne Cassidy and her twentysomething daughter, Miranda, are struggling to cope with the sudden death of husband and father Nick, a hotshot pilot for a questionable private aviation company. Anne has become a New Age spiritualist in Sedona while Miranda has turned into a promiscuous and rootless dropout. After a three-year estrangement, Anne sets off to find Miranda and repair their broken lives. No one has heard from Miranda for two months, and Anne fears the worst. But Miranda is actually living under an assumed name in a seedy Virginia beach town, after having survived a drunken car wreck and been rescued by a passing motorist. As Anne gathers clues to Miranda's whereabouts, Miranda's life begins a perilous downward spiral. Her rescuer's interest in her seems questionable in light of rumors of a local serial killer, and her sources of money, booze, and food are drying up as the tourists leave the beach at summer's end. This story could have been a real downer, but Braffet (Josie and Jack) deftly teases readers with the appearance of Nick's flying buddy and some hopeful clues to Nick's tragic death. Her skillful portrayal of unresolved grief and shattered relationships lends sensitivity to this solidly crafted and compelling sophomore effort, which will secure the author's place as a novelist of note. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/06.] Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp. Lib., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A suspenseful, emotionally resonant story about a mother and her daughter caught in the mystery of her husband's disappearance. Braffet's lean prose, taut pacing and subtle characterizations here live up to the promise of her debut (Josie and Jack¸ 2005). Anne's husband Nick was a pilot, a charming thrill-seeker and Vietnam vet who went from flying combat in Laos to flying cargo in undisclosed Central American locations. Then the shadowy Western Mountain Aviation called to say Nick's plane had gone down, though they never did find it or him. Distraught, the young widow took her daughter Miranda and fled Pittsburgh for Sedona and the comforts of New Age spiritualism. Twenty years later, Miranda has grown into an angry, isolated 28-year-old dropout, drifting between bad jobs and poor relationships. An unnamed woman has walked away from a car crash and is picked up by a middle-aged man in a sedan. Anne suddenly can't reach her daughter, and sets off to find her. As Anne collects heartrending, baffling clues, we watch Miranda move closer to the dark undertow of her unhappy life. The author's carefully drawn characters and incisive observations on human nature form the heart of her novel. Miranda and Anne are flawed, highly sympathetic beings who struggle to face life in the face of unresolved grief and an impossible web of deceit. Braffet teases the reader with the possibility that all will be revealed about Nick's disappearance, plus a barely-there subplot about a serial killer, but brilliantly plays against genre expectations by placing the real suspense in Miranda's ability to care for herself enough to allow Anne to find her. A keen, heartfelt thrill.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

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Prologue: Crash It had been a bad night, anyway. He’d had too much to drink, she hadn’t had enough, and they’d ended up in the parked car, having sex while fat summer raindrops spattered against the windows. He was fast and grunting and she felt that she may as well have been alone in the car, in the parking lot, in the state; impatience had welled up inside her like bad food, the same feeling she had in tight spaces. She’d wondered how he didn’t notice.
Then they’d argued, and now she was on the highway, driving the twenty miles it would take her to be home. And the car was hers, the music coming through the speakers was hers, loud and aggressive, and the highway felt wonderful under her tires. She was on the new bypass, which cost a dollar, but it was worth it because the road was empty. The cops stuck to highways with more traffic, where they’d be more likely to fill their ticket quotas, and so she gunned it, cutting through the empty darkness and pressing the accelerator closer and closer to the Nova’s dirty floor mats. Singing along with the music and pounding the steering wheel in time to the beat, with all of that frustrated energy to burn. Raindrops smacked hard off the asphalt, back up into the air, and that suited her, too.
When she drove, she liked to think she was plugged into a huge, powerful machine. Like science fiction: the car’s nervous system joined with her own through the sole of her right foot. That was where the car told her to add more gas or take it away, when she had a low tire and was driving soft, when she was on ice and when she was on dry pavement. That was where she felt it when the car hydroplaned. She just had time to think Oh, shit before time unlocked and she saw the guardrail racing toward her. Her headlights lit the grass with surreal stripes of daylight as the car hurtled down the high, artificial embankment and then the grass was in the sky and the sky was in the grass, and inside her head there was only a high-pitched wail of impossibility. She was rolling her car. People died when they rolled their cars. She could die.
The wail intensified. She knew nothing else until it was over.

A man crouched next to her on the grass, rain spotting his glasses. “Are you all right?” he said. “Are you hurt?” She was sitting halfway up the steep slope. The crumpled Nova lay at the base of the embankment, twisted into sculpture. She had no memory of unbuckling her seatbelt and pulling herself from the wreckage, of climbing this hill, of sitting down on the wet earth.
The man said, “You don’t look hurt. You’re not bleeding.” She was too busy taking stock of herself to answer. Her shoulder burned where the seatbelt had dug into it, and her knees ached from bracing her legs against the floor mat. Her jaw felt stiff and sore. But the man was right. None of her hurts seemed serious.
“Did you see me go over?” she asked. Her voice cracked.
He nodded. “I was behind you. We should get out of the rain,” he added, pushing his dripping hair back from his forehead. “Do you have a mobile phone?” She shook her head.
“Neither do I. But I can give you a ride to the nearest pay phone.” He helped her to her feet. The world was finding its place around her, but her legs still felt weak and disconnected from the rest of her body. She stumbled, almost fell, and he caught her without hesitation.
“I’m not drunk,” she said.
“I know you’re not,” he said, his hand cool on her bare elbow. Together they made their way up the rain-slick hill to his car, a silver Mercedes. He helped her into the passenger’s seat, making sure her seatbelt was buckled before carefully checking two lanes’ worth of empty blacktop and pulling onto the highway. Only then did all the advice she’d been given about how to behave when you were a stranded female motorist come back to her. She realized that she had done everything wrong. She had not stayed in her car with the doors locked. She had not asked a passing motorist to send help. A stranger had offered her a ride and she had taken it.
Then she thought, Fuck that, I’m alive. And her rescuer didn’t seem interesting enough to be dangerous. He wore a button- down shirt, khakis, and loafers, all slightly soggy from the rain, and wire-rimmed glasses that he’d carefully wiped dry with a handkerchief before starting the engine. He was about ten years older than she was, and he needed a haircut.
Her hands still shook with the aftereffects of the crash, and her heart was loud and dire inside her chest, like the backbeat from music playing too loudly in another apartment. The world felt foggy and surreal, and she decided that she couldn’t be paranoid, not now. It was too hard.
For a time they drove withoutt speaking, watching the flat gray ribbon of road unfurling in front of the headlights. The Mercedes seemed to glide above it without touching the asphalt. Even the rain was hushed. She leaned back and rested her head against the soft leather seat. Gradually, she relaxed. Her hands stopped trembling, and her heart quieted. She felt as if she’d been crying, fiercely and for a long time.
A slow scowl spread across her face. Finally she said, “I can’t believe I wrecked my goddamned car. What the fuck am I going to do? How am I supposed to get to work tomorrow?” She lifted her hands and dropped them hopelessly. “They’ll fire me. They’ll completely fucking fire me.” He said nothing, and she saw that he was smiling. It was a simple smile, as if he’d just seen something small and pleasant, like a butterfly. Suddenly she was angry. “Yeah, funny, isn’t it?” she said. “My car’s a piece of modern art next to the bypass, by this time tomorrow I’ll be unemployed, and by this time next month I’ll probably be living in my boyfriend’s mother’s basement. I could die laughing.” The smile vanished. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “It’s the way you talk, like die laughing. You sound like someone in a crime novel.” “Oh.” Her anger vanished as quickly as it had come, but it left a strange taste in her mouth. Was that a compliment? she wondered. She watched him carefully now, looking for—she didn’t know exactly what she was looking for. Some sign that would tip things one way or another, into hazardous territory or out of it. “I swear like a goddamned sailor, is what you mean.” “I think it’s quite wonderful,” he said, and that was strange, but was it dangerous? It sounded like the kind of thing some flake New Age friend of her mother’s would say, didn’t it? Affirmation for affirmation’s sake. You hated your job so you quit, and now you live in your car? How wonderful for you.
“Wonderful. Right,” she said, and then, deliberately changing the subject, “This is a nice car.” She meant it; the seats felt like real leather, and the soft glow from the dashboard was all digital. She’d never been in a Mercedes before.
He shrugged. “I travel a lot for work. I used to fly; now I drive. The economy,” he said, as if he expected her to commiserate.
“My economy always sucks,” she said. “What do you do?” “I work for the government. It’s not that interesting.” She tried to smile. “You want to hear not interesting, I’ll tell you about my job.” The smile disappeared. “Although I guess it won’t be a problem after I get fired.” He nodded, not unsympathetically. “You’re lucky I came along, you know. There’s not a lot of traffic on this road.” “I can take care of myself. A few months ago I had a fan belt break not far from here. No big deal. I just fixed it with my bra.” “That’s very resourceful,” he said, with enough sudden interest to make her regret mentioning her underwear. “I always thought that was an urban legend. Like giving somebody a tracheotomy with a ballpoint pen if they’re choking. How are you supposed to keep the person from bleeding to death while they’re breathing through your pen?” It was hard to tell if he expected an answer. “Duct tape,” she said.
He took her seriously. “If you have some. I guess it’s the sort of thing that you never think you can do until you actually do it. It’s a common phenomenon. Where do you live?” “What?” she said, instantly tense.
“Where do you live? Where am I taking you?” She moved uneasily in the seat. “There’s a truck stop off the next exit. You can drop me there.” “I can take you all the way home if you’d like. The company is nice. I spend a lot of time alone.” “The truck stop is fine.” “I actually enjoy driving,” he said. “I find it meditative. I think about things I’ve never done, things I’d like to do.” “Like what?” she said, thinking that if he said anything else about tracheotomies she would jump out of the moving car, which was something that she had never done.
But instead he said, “I don’t know. The standard things, I guess. Haven’t you ever failed yourself?” “You know, for a guy who spends all his time alone, you talk a lot,” she said.
“I’m surprising myself. I don’t really like people, as a rule.” “Great.” “Why?” “Because I’m locked in a car with a strange man who doesn’t like people.” “Oh,” he said, and then, for the first time, he laughed. His laugh was all in his throat. “You’re funny.” She turned and looked out the window just in time to see the truck stop fly past in a blur of yellow lights. “Hey,” she said. “That was the exit. You just missed it.” “Did I?” he said.
Copyright © 2006 by Kelly Braffet. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Meet the Author

Kelly Braffet's first novel, Josie and Jack, was published in 2005. It was praised as “wicked fun . . . a gothic tour of hell” (Los Angeles Times) and “a compelling study of love, hate, and psychopathic jealousy” (New York Post). Braffet was born in Long Beach, California, in 1976, and has lived in Arizona, rural Pennsylvania and Oxford, England. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, and has taught novel writing at the Sackett Street Writing Workshop. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, the writer Owen King.

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Last Seen Leaving 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this for a class and I really fell in love with it. Braffet is an up and coming author with wonderful prose and great insight. A mashup of mystery, literature, and a road narative, combined with great execution.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the back and forth between mother and daughter's story. Excellent writing and a good plot but story finished up too fast with lots of questions about fathers ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow paced and boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not about the novel..this is about the ridiculous postings that appear on these pages. How childish and worthless they are...please take the time to report them when they appear. Maybe something will be done to stop this waste of space.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yawned went to sleep.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I, Bluestar, have 12 kits that need rpers. Some are already apprentises. Here's the entire list of apprentises that need rpers:<> &bull; Shadowpaw<br> &bull; Silverpaw<br> &bull; Firepaw<br> &bull; Stripepaw<br> &bull; Duskpaw<br> &bull; Mosspaw<p> Here is the list of kits that need rpers:<br> &bull; Talonkit<br> &bull; Opalkit<br> &bull; Forestkit<br> &bull; Everkit<br> &bull; Skykit<br> &bull; Winterkit<br> &bull; Swirlingkit<p> Only Mosspaw is not mine. Ask Wingdust or Thornfall about him. Not me. And for my kits, as long as you are active, just start rping. No need to ask unless they are taken. Read their corresponding bios please first. The rest will be out within a couple days. This is a message from Lightclan (located at 'help me' results one and three). Thank you for your time. Bluestar.