Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story

Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story

by Renee Carlino

Paperback(1st Edition)

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From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.

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?


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501105777
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 08/18/2015
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 154,562
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and the bestselling author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain, Before We Were Strangers, Swear on This Life, and Wish You Were Here. She grew up in Southern California and lives in the San Diego area with her husband and two sons. To learn more, visit

Read an Excerpt

Before We Were Strangers

1. Do You Still Think of Me?


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 or relevance. I categorically disagreed with all things current. I despised the use of emojis, the word meta, and people who talked on their phones in line. Don’t even get me started on gentrification. There were twenty-one Starbucks within a three-block radius of the building I worked in. Recording studios, film labs, and record stores were dying, if not already vacant corpses turned cupcake shops or blow-dry bars. They had stopped playing music videos on MTV and had banned smoking in bars. I didn’t recognize New York anymore.

These are the things I pondered while sitting in my four-by-four cubicle at National Geographic. It hadn’t felt National or Geographic since I had taken a desk job there a few years before. I had come out of the field, where I had seen everything, and I went into a hole, where I saw nothing. I was in the middle of the city I loved, back in her arms again, but we were strangers. I was still hanging on to the past and I didn’t know why.

Scott smacked me square on the back. “Hey, buddy. Brooklyn for lunch?”

“Why so far?” I was sitting at my desk, fidgeting with the battery in my phone.

“There’s a pizza place I want you to try, Ciccio’s. You heard of it?”

“We can get good pizza on Fifth.”

“No, you have to try this place, Matt. It’s phenomenal.”

“What’s phenomenal, the pizza or the staff?” Since my divorce a few years ago, Scott—boss, friend, and eternal bachelor—had high hopes that I’d become his permanent wingman. It was impossible to talk him out of anything, especially when it involved women and food.

“You got me. You have to see this girl. We’ll call it a work meeting. I’ll put it on the company card.” Scott was the type who talked about women a lot and about porn even more. He was severely out of touch with reality.

“I’m sure this qualifies as sexual harassment somewhere.”

He leaned against the top of the cubicle partition. He had a nice-looking face and was always smiling, but if you didn’t see him for a week, you’d forget what he looked like.

“We’ll take the subway.”

“Hey, guys.” My ex-wife walked by, sipping a cup of coffee.

I ignored her. “Hey, Liz,” Scott said and then stared at her ass as she walked away. He turned to me. “Is it weird to work with her and Brad?”

“I’ve always worked with her and Brad.”

“Yeah, but she was your wife and now she’s Brad’s wife.”

“I honestly don’t care anymore.” I stood up and grabbed my jacket.

“That’s a good sign. I believe you. That’s how I know you’re ready for some strange.” I often ignored these types of comments from Scott.

“I need to stop by Verizon first and get a new battery,” I said, waving my phone.

“What is that?”

“A cell phone. Pretty sure you’ve seen one before.”

“First of all, no one says ‘cell phone’ anymore. Second, that’s not a phone; that’s an artifact. We should ship it to the Smithsonian and get you an iPhone.”

On the way out, we passed Kitty, the coffee cart girl. “Hello, gentlemen.”

I smiled. “Kitty.” She blushed.

Scott said nothing until we got into the elevator. “You should tap that. She totally wants you.”

“She’s a child.”

“She’s a college graduate. I hired her.”

“Not my type. Her name is Kitty.”

“All right, now you’re just being mean.” He seemed minimally offended on Kitty’s behalf.

“I’m fine. Why is it everyone’s mission in life to set me up? I’m fine.”

“Clock’s a-tickin’.”

“Guys don’t have clocks.”

“You’re thirty-six.”

“That’s young.”

“Not compared to Kitty.”

The elevator doors opened and we stepped into the lobby. A giant print of one of my photos ran the length of a wall.

“See that, Matt? That gets women wet.”

“It’s a picture of an Iraqi child holding an automatic weapon.”

“The Pulitzer you got for it, genius, not the picture.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “That was a good year for you.”

“Yeah, it was. Professionally, anyway.”

“I’m telling you, you have to use that to your advantage. You have a moderate amount of celebrity because of that photo. It’s worked in my favor.”

“How did it work for you, exactly?”

“I might’ve borrowed your name for a night. Once or twice.”

I laughed. “That’s disgraceful, man.”

“Kitty’s into you. You should give that little hottie what she wants. You know there’re rumors about her.”

“Even more reason to stay away.”

“No, good rumors. Like she’s crazy. A little animal.”

“And that’s good how?”

We made our way outside and headed for the subway station on West 57th to catch the F train. Midtown is always congested at that hour, but we were nearing the end of winter. The sun beating down between the buildings drew even more people out onto the street. I weaved in and out of the masses while Scott trailed me.

Right before we reached the station entrance he spoke loudly from behind.

“She’d probably be into anal.”

I stopped and faced him at the top of the steps going down. “Scott, this conversation is wrong in so many ways. Let’s just end it here, okay?”

“I’m your boss.”

“Exactly.” I trotted down the steps toward the turnstiles.

There was an old woman playing a violin at the bottom of the steps. Her clothes were dingy and her hair was a gray, matted mess. The strings on her bow were hanging off, like floating foxtails, but she was playing Brahms flawlessly. When I threw five bucks in her case, she smiled. Scott shook his head and pulled me along.

“I’m trying to keep you happy and productive, Matt.”

I swiped my Metro card. “Give me a raise. That will keep me happy and productive.”

The station was crowded. A train was pulling up, but we were stuck behind a huge group of people who were pushing toward the front like they had somewhere important to be. Scott was content to hang back and stare at a woman who had her back toward us. She stood near the edge of the platform, rocking from heel to toe, balancing on the thick yellow line. There was something striking about her.

Scott elbowed me and then waggled his eyebrows and mouthed “nice ass.” I wanted to punch him in the neck.

The more I looked at the woman, the more I felt drawn to her. She had one thick blonde braid running down her back. Her hands were shoved into the pockets of her black coat, and it occurred to me that, like a child, she was teetering joyously to the rhythm of the violin echoing against the station walls.

When the train finally pulled up, she let people rush past her and then stepped in at the last second. Scott and I stood on the yellow line, waiting for the next, less-crowded train. Just as the train doors closed, she turned around. Our eyes locked.

I blinked. Holy shit.


She pressed her hand to the glass and mouthed, “Matt?” but the train was pulling away.

Without thinking about it, I ran. I ran like a crazy person to the end of the platform, my hand outstretched, willing the train to stop, my eyes never leaving hers. And when I ran out of platform, I watched the train fly into the darkness until she was gone.

When Scott caught up to me, he looked at me cautiously. “Whoa, man. What was that about? You look like you saw a ghost.”

“Not a ghost. Grace.”

“Who’s Grace?”

I was stunned, staring into the void that had swallowed her. “A girl I used to know.”

“What, like the one who got away?” Scott asked.

“Something like that.”

“I had one of those. Janie Bowers, first girl to give me a blowie. I beat it to that image until I was, like, thirty.”

I ignored him. All I could think about was Grace.

Scott went on. “She was a cheerleader. Hung around my high school lacrosse team. They all called her the Therapist. I didn’t know why. I thought she was gonna be my girlfriend after that blowie.”

“No, not like that,” I said. “Grace and I dated in college, right before I met Elizabeth.”

“Oh, like that. Well, she looked good. Maybe you should try to get in touch with her.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, but thought there’s no way she’d still be single.

I LET BRODY, the seventeen year-old salesperson at Verizon, talk me into the newest iPhone. It actually costs eight dollars less a month to have a newer phone. Nothing in this world made sense to me anymore. I was distracted while signing the documents because the image of Grace, on the train, floating off into the darkness, had been running on a constant loop in my mind since we had left the station.

Over pizza, Scott showed me how to play Angry Birds. I thought that was a big step toward overcoming my technology phobia. The girl Scott was hoping to see wasn’t working so we ate our pizza and headed back to the office.

Once I was back at my cubicle, I Googled Grace’s name in every possible variation—first, middle, and last names; first and last names; middle and last names—with no luck. How was this possible? What kind of life was she leading that kept her completely off the internet?

I thought about what had happened to us. I thought about the way she looked on the subway—still beautiful, like I remembered, but different. No one would ever describe Grace as cute. Even though she was petite, she was too striking to be cute, with her big green eyes and massive mane of blonde hair. Her eyes had seemed hollow, her face a bit harder than when I last saw her. It had only taken one glance for me to know she wasn’t the effervescent, free spirit I’d known years ago. It made me crazy wondering what her life was like now.

Cheers erupted from the break room down the hall. I wandered over to witness the tail end of my ex-wife announcing her pregnancy to our co-workers. It wasn’t long after my divorce that I became acutely aware of everyone around me carrying on, living life. I was static, standing on the platform, watching train after train go by, wishing I knew which one to be on. Elizabeth was already at the next stop, starting a family while I was slinking back to my shitty cubicle, hoping not to be seen. I was indifferent toward her and her pregnancy news. I was numb . . . but I shot her an email anyway out of some residual obligation still lingering from our failed marriage.


Congratulations. I’m happy for you. I know how badly you wanted a child.

Best, Matt

Two minutes later, my email pinged.

Best? Really? You can’t say “love” after spending over a decade of your life with me?

I didn’t respond. I was in a hurry. I needed to get back on the subway.

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Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
JoannaDursi More than 1 year ago
If you haven’t read anything by this author, you need to right now! Ms. Carlino continues to blow mw away with the heartbreakingly beautiful stories that she writes. Matt and Grace meet their senior year of college and soon become best friends and eventually more. What once was casual turns into a bond that will last a lifetime. But after they graduate, circumstances push them apart and their futures become a series of missed connections. I enjoyed the fact that the author decided to tell their story in a present/past/present setting. It was nice to see a style stand out against the “usual” telling with flashbacks. BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS was a wonderful story that hit me straight through the heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been power reading her books, because they're just that good. Each one has been better than the one before. I absolutely fell in love with these characters. You will not be disappointed if you give it a chance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookbruin More than 1 year ago
Actual Rating 4.5 stars Before We Were Strangers is a novel about the importance of timing, first loves, and second chances. The dual POV and weaving of past and present really made this a captivating and entertaining read. I loved Matt and Grace, both individually and together. Their relationship felt natural and I really enjoyed watching it grow and unfold. The chapters in the past were definitely my favorite, but I also liked how the present chapters showed how each character had grown and been shaped by their experiences. They each had never truly let the other go and that made the story both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I did feel that the present chapters felt a little rushed, but that's probably because I was dying for them to just get back together already! The only reason this isn't a 5 star read for me is that the break-up, miscommunications, and just plain giving up didn't sit right with me. I understand that the relationship was relatively new and that this could lead to insecurities about the future, but I felt that the past chapters showed so clearly how much these 2 loved each other that it seemed very out of character to have them be OK with ending things so poorly. It was a different time, without the conveniences of social media, but both had the ability to find the other through friends, family, or even their place of work. Even after the interference of Elizabeth, I still was surprised that Grace did not push harder to find Matt. Yes, she felt rejected and was heartbroken, but she needed to get in touch with Matt for others, not just for herself. Again, on the one hand I understand why the story unfolded this way, but on the other it really was infuriating! This is the first Renee Carlino book I have read, but I fell in love with her writing style immediately. Her characters were perfectly flawed and the interactions were raw and real. Ultimately, the story for me boiled down to timing. Matt and Grace were victims to it the first time around, but sometimes space and time are needed to show us that what was true, was there all along. Overall, Before We Were Strangers was an excellent read filled with emotion and heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me feeling all sorts of the feels!!! I was sad, angry, happy and following a beautiful love story unravel. It was beautifully written and had me going until the very end!
ShopeSS More than 1 year ago
Have you ever had that question about if something had happened at a different time in your life, if things would have turned out differently? This is along the lines of the plot of Before We Were Strangers and I loved it. Matt and Grace were college sweethearts; from the moment they met, they were inseparable. What started off as friendship morphed into love and a relationship. They both had dreams they wanted to achieve and supported each other in achieving them. When Matt goes off for his internship with National Geographic, it is a test of how much faith and love they have in one another. Jump 15 years later and Matt is back in NYC and happens to see Grace on a train platform. Grace, the girl he never stopped loving, the one that had gotten away. Renée spins this tale of two vividly passionate people and the reader is engulfed in it all. Grace in her music, and Matt in his photography. I love how each character is so well developed and Grace and Matt’s loved is formed around the passion they each have. The reader is drawn into the book by the descriptions and the well-rounded characters that Renée has brought to life. You can’t help but to root for them both in their early relationship and during the time that they are reconnected. Renée has again provided a book that sucks the reader in and you can’t help but to feel ever emotion that the main characters feel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story had a really different twist to the average love story. I loved the character development. I read alot and it's rare anymore to see a romance with a real plot. I've started another of her books and it's just as great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. You never disappoint. Loved Matt and Grace and their story. Your books are so well written, not only do you fall in love with the characters and story, you fall in love with love, and you never want to leave. I've read all you books starting from My Sweet Thing. Thank you for another great read. LOVETOREAD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't put this book down from start to finish! I literally read it cover to cover. Well developed characters that I wanted to have over for dinner and get to know. Engaging story that hooked me right from the beginning. A great love lost, love found story. Read this book, you won't be sorry!
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
REVIEW: 4.25 stars-- BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is a story of first loves, broken hearts and second chances. Told from dual first person points of view, from present day to the past and back to the present, BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS follows the growing relationship between two college students-photographer Matt Shore and cellist Grace Starr –who on the first day of senior year met, struck up an immediate friendship that would eventually find our leading couple as best friends, confidants, and lovers. Throughout the storyline we are witness to Grace and Matt’s connection; the bonds they formed with one another, the friendships that would last a lifetime; and the dysfunctional family situations that force Matt and Grace to lean upon one another more times than not. But all was for naught when Matt is eventually offered an internship with National Geographic while Grace remains behind to complete her graduate studies. A promise to return within three months finds Grace lost and brokenhearted when news of a different kind force Grace to make a life altering decision. BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS follows the ‘before and after’ of a fifteen year separation for two people who promised one another the world; their memories of times spent together were balanced with the reality of what had happened and what was to come. But a mistaken belief would send our couple in opposite directions and fifteen years would pass before a fleeting moment in the subway would push Matt to begin a search for the woman he had never stopped loving. Matt wanted his happily ever after but the road to happiness is filled with heartbreak, betrayal and loss. BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is an unforgettable storyline of first love and second chances. Grace and Matt’s all consuming love for one another is matched with passionate promises and seductive proclamations but life and everything else in between had a funny way of destroying what was and what was to be. If I had one complaint it is the unreality of Grace’s inability to contact Matt throughout the fifteen year separation. The author tried to explain the issues and problems Grace encountered but I have to question some of the situations and responses. Sometimes the little things get lost in the telling of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites!!!!! Lovet this book so much! Hope she has a little continuation novella of them like she did in the Sweet Thing book! 5+++++ stars! Made ne laugh! Made me cry! Mad my heart full! Didn't wanna put it down! Another great read from Renee! A must!
Karina46 More than 1 year ago
Infinity and Beyond, You Complete Me Stars! Renee Carlino has gained a fan. Before We Were Strangers is easily one of my top books of this year and I would gladly shout it from the mountain tops. The blurb had me at hello and the story gutted me completely in the best possible way. Laced with a heavy dose of nostalgia, the narrative makes you long for a time when simplicity seemed to be the key to happiness. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon At 36, Matthias Shore leads a successful professional life. Having been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in photography and working at National Geographic while getting to see the world hardly seems worth it without being able to share it with a certain Green-Eyed Lovebird. In true Ron Livingston style circa Office Space, Matt has had enough of his current situation and yearns for change, preferably one that will not include working in the same building as his cheating and very pregnant ex-wife and her new husband. The ghost of his past and object of his affection materializes feet away after a decade and a half on a crowded NYC subway platform. "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." -Billy Preston Grace Porter stands on a NYC subway platform awaiting her train. Always listening to the music of the lively city, naturally she rocks on her feet feeling the pulse of the concrete jungle. Having carried on for years in a fog-like state, she's settled on a steady life rhythm until her favorite blast from the past is staring awe-stricken from the other side of the closing doors. In a city with millions of people and without any contact information, fate finds a way to reunite the estranged pair for one last trip down memory lane. Speed walking, pay phones and actually engaging in conversation with others without the use of social media are seemingly archaic concepts that come alive and transport us to a time of what might have been where we relive the unconventional yet unforgettable love story of Matt and Grace. In this day and age where we're so technologically connected yet less in touch with each other, Before We Were Strangers reminds us that although life doesn't often unfold the way we would prefer, love will always find a way. And sometimes missed connections and second chances make for a perfect HEA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful book!!!
xxBianca More than 1 year ago
My heart is FULL after reading Before We Were Strangers. It’s quite possibly the best book I’ve read all year! Award winning, photographer, recently divorced, 36 year old Matt is living a monotonous life. One day, by chance he sees his past. And that sight becomes a missed connection. You feel his heart come alive. You feel his heart beat the moment he sees Grace. You are transported to this moment. Time stops. And you FEEL it. Matt tries an unconventional way to reach out to Grace. He left his heart with Grace, and now he’s ready to get it back. Matt and Grace met in college as they live in the same building. There is an instant connection. While friends, you feel their underlying desire for each other. Once they admit those feelings, sparks fly. Their souls awaken. And you are there for every moment. The author allows you to live within the pages of the story. You breathe the author’s words. The banter is addicting. You will not be able to put this one down. Matt and Grace love with everything. With their entire being. It’s passionate, intense. Their love shatters. You as a reader are told a beautiful, unforgettable love story about two soul mates that time nor circumstance can even touch. Time did not dim the spark between them. If anything it made it more likely to ignite the moment they meet again. This story made my heart BEAT. I am vague in the plot and how its developed as this story needs be experienced. There are no words that can do this story justice. None. “You can’t create the 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.” Love bears all things. Endures all things. Love? Love is everything. And the love between Matt and Grace? It will overwhelm you. Challenge everything you ever believed in about love and all it encompasses. All it is capable of. Their love is magic. Their love saves, it heals. Their love wins. I can easily say there is not one story I can compare this one too. It is in a league of its own. The story is captivating. Compelling. The character development is brilliant. And the execution of the story was well developed. What causes Matt and Grace to be apart is heartbreaking. But their reunion will have you crying sadness and joy. Their souls are forever tethered and their story attests to this. Before We Were Strangers gave me LIFE. Every moment of this heartfelt, poignant story, moved me. I laughed. I cried. I lived. This story remains in my heart WEEKS later. This is SO much more than a second chance romance. So much DEEPER. If you could put every beautiful love story in one, the words would echo the words of this one. One should be so lucky to ever experience the kind of love that exists between Matt and Grace. Every obstacle and challenge life threw in their way, they overcame. If there was a recipe to write a deep, moving, emotional, beautiful love story this would be it. Even if I could give this story a million stars, even that would never be enough.
JeriTRyan More than 1 year ago
Reading “Before We Were Strangers” by Renee Carlino I learned something. I learned that it is NOT a good thing if 3 of your favorite authors EVER recommend you to read this book because they love it. The problem is – even when you will deny it out loud – you WILL somehow compare the writing of those 3 authors to the book you are about to read. It can not be avoided and it will be unfair to the book because you will expect something that is unlikely to happen. That being said. This story is not bad really but it is also not THAT amazing. After a short introduction into “Matthias” present day life the first 50% of the story flows slowly - introducing us to the past that Matt and Grace share. It is fluently written and it shows a deep character development BUT … inside me … there was nothing happening when I read those 50% … it could have been some random article in the newspaper if I review my emotions. The three authors I saw talking about this book were Amy Harmon, Jodi Ellen Malpas and Colleen Hoover… anybody reading their books will understand If I say … I not only expected to FEEL something when reaching 50% of a book – no I NEEDED to feel something. I mean – it took Colleen Hover about 10 Minutes into “Confess” to make me cry and at 50 % of Jodi Ellen Malpas “This Man” I was considering the option of throwing the book out of the window as I was so pissed off by Jesse. After leaving the 50% mark the next thing I know is – I could see the total “endgame” right before my eyes… and when I say TOTAL – I mean I could have even told you everything that will happen including the name of the persons… and I was right. So either I am very clever (doubtful as for example Colleen Hoover always manages to trick me) or it was really obvious. OR all in total it is just – coming back to the beginning – the fact that my expectations for this book were simply too high. It is a well developed story with interesting characters so I can recommend it to lovers or the genre but I highly advise not to have too high expectations considering the twists or turns of this plot. Those were at least for me very predictable and came at no surprise. The second half of the book the story got me interested a little more than the first part. There were some dialogues that made me smile and at one point a single tear was threatening to leave my eye (it didn’t in the end …) - but my emotions were nowhere near into the story like I would have expected considering the blurb.
BookBaristasNM More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the most romantic, heartfelt and consuming books I've ever read. To say that I'm in love with it would feel like the biggest understatement, ever. “Each day, I was learning how to simplify my life. Maybe that’s what growing up was really about. Adults say how complicated life gets as we age, but really, I think we just look for bigger challenges to overcome.” BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is a second-chance love story about Matt and Grace, two NYU students who meet in the beginning of their senior year. They both live in the same dorm building and become fast friends. I love that they were honest-to-god best friends who loved to be in each other's company. They were inseparable and rarely went anywhere without the other -- not because they felt like they couldn't, but because they just didn't want to experience new things without the other standing right beside them. “You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel love 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.” The story begins in the present and flashes back fifteen years to the year that Matt & Grace met. They were together for one incredible year, and lost touch whilst pursing their own careers. “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.” Carlino incorporates music and photography flawlessly throughout the story -- Matt is an incredibly talented photographer with Grace as his beautiful muse. Grace is a highly gifted cellist who needs music like she needs air to breathe. Together, their creativity really shines and brings this amazing element to the story that is crucial to their relationship. They both know what they need to do to become successful, but they are finding it hard to balance their personal needs with their new relationship. Basically, any kind of story that can teach you life lessons, make your heart cry out and make you feel both incredibly sad, but joyous at the same time is the kind of story I never want to stop reading. I'm blessed, so insanely lucky, to have found a story that I finished reading with tears in my eyes and a more beautiful outlook on life, love and believing in second chances.
beau2fullybrkn1 More than 1 year ago
Ms. Carlino’s writing is completely enthralling. I loved this story, I loved the writing, I loved the characters, and everything in between. Before We Were Strangers, was a beautiful, emotional, and vividly stunning novel about love and second chances. I loved the premise of this story. Matt was 36, divorced, and an award winning photographer. He's had success in his life but as the years have gone on, he's felt more and more unfilled. He doesn't know what he is missing from his life but he wants to find it. One day he happens to take the subway and he's sees Grace Starr. Grace was his one-time best friend, his college girlfriend, and truly the love of his life. Their eyes only meet briefly, but in that moment you could sense and feel every ounce of emotion that the two had once shared. It’s been over 15 years since they last saw each other and Matt had always wondered about her over the years. He’s never truly gotten over her and seeing her again put a spark back into his life. For weeks he tries to find her again and he finally he decides to put a beautiful ad in the Missed Connections sections. When he was 21, Matt had moved to New York from California for his senior year of college. He and Grace met on his first day at school. They were dorm mates and neighbors. From the very moment they meet they just have an immediate connection. The two were fast friends and they quickly became an intricate part of each other's live. Grace was a musician. She was hard working, quirky, tenacious, sweet, and was simply easy to love. Her parents haven't limited financial means and because of that she works hard to provide for herself and give them extra help when she can. Grace has learned to do quick, quirky things to save and make money. She's always been so focused on school and graduating that she's had little time to invest in a personal relationship. Their connection and relationship happened organically. Matt wanted more from her but he never pushed her. As time passes their attraction for each other become more and more evident. I was dying for them to explore their feelings and when the two finally end up together, it was SPECTACULAR!! I really enjoyed Matt and Grace together. Their relationship was passionate, intense, and they loved each other dearly. As their senior year starts to come to an end, they had big decisions to make. Both are given opportunities that could advance their careers, but it would also tear them apart. When Matt makes his decision he fully hopes Grace would be there when he returns but things don’t turn out as they plan. Miscommunication, lies, and secrets end up keeping them apart for over a decade. What absolutely loved about this story was the characters. I loved that they were flawed and yet so perfect for each other. I hated seeing them apart but it made the story much more realistic. It gave them a chance to grow up and experience a completely different path. Even though they were apart for so long it evident that they were madly in love. I enjoyed watching them reconnect and I liked that fact that it was not fairytale new beginning. There was a lot of pain that remained between them. If they wanted the love the once had, they would have to fight for it. Renee Carlino wrote this story with such a passion and flair. Her impeccable use of imagery made me want to be in New York. It made me want to walk th streets of the city. Full review:
Eu More than 1 year ago
My book friends were running around like maniacs because some bookstores had this book on the shelves earlier (it's not due to release for two days), so I decided to join in the fun (something I rarely do lately). Since this is my first book by Renee Carlino, I wasn't sure what to expect but it didn't disappoint -AND it will certainly not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully crafted story of friends to lovers, bad timing, reconnecting and second changes. A page turner, it kept me engrossed from beginning to end; a definite must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! It was funny, sad and unpredictable, which is what I liked the most. I read the whole book one morning, I couldn't put it down! It even made me cry. Can't wait to read another by Renee Carlino!!