Last Night in Montreal

Last Night in Montreal

by Emily St. John Mandel

Paperback(First Trade Paper Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936071609
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication date: 06/07/2010
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Emily St. John Mandel was born in British Columbia, Canada. Her most recent novel, Station Eleven, was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller. Her previous novels were Last Night in MontrealThe Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2013and Venice Noir. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Read an Excerpt

1.

No one stays forever. On the morning of her disappearance Lilia woke early, and lay still for a moment in the bed. It was the last day of October. She slept naked.
Eli was up already, and working on his thesis proposal. While he was typing up the previous day’s research notes he heard the sounds of awakening, the rustling of the duvet, her bare footsteps on the hardwood floor, and she kissed the top of his head very lightly en route to the bathroom—he made an agreeable humming noise but didn’t look up—and the shower started on the other side of the almost-closed door. Steam and the scent of apricot shampoo escaped around the edges. She stayed in the shower for forty-five minutes, but this wasn’t unusual. The day was still unremarkable. Eli glanced up briefly when she emerged from the bathroom. Lilia, naked: pale skin wrapped in a soft white towel, short dark hair wet on her forehead, and she smiled when he met her eyes.

“Good morning,” he said. Smiling back at her. “How did you sleep?” He was already typing again.

She kissed his hair again instead of answering, and left a trail of wet footprints all the way back to the bedroom. He heard her towel fall softly to the bedroom floor and he wanted to go and make love to her just then, but he was immersed so deeply in the work that morning, accomplishing things, and he didn’t want to break the spell. He heard a dresser drawer slide shut in the bedroom.

She came out dressed all in black, as she almost always did, and carrying the three pieces of a plate that had fallen off the bed the night before. The plate was a light shade of blue, and sticky with pomegranate juice. He heard her dropping it into the kitchen garbage can before she wandered past him into the living room. She stood in front of his sofa, running her fingers through her hair to test for dampness, her expression a little blank when he glanced up at her, and it seemed to him later that she’d been considering something, perhaps making up her mind. But then, he played the morning back so many times that the tape was ruined—later it seemed possible that she’d simply been thinking about the weather, and later still he was even willing to consider the possibility that she hadn’t stood in front of the sofa at all—had merely paused there, perhaps, for an instant that the stretched-out reel extended into a moment, a scene, and finally a major plot point.

Later he was certain that the first few playbacks of that last morning were reasonably accurate, but after a few too many nights of lying awake and considering things, the quality began to erode. In retrospect the sequence of events is a little hazy, images running into each other and becoming slightly confused: she’s across the room, she’s kissing him for a third time—and why doesn’t he look up and kiss her? Her last kiss lands on his head—and putting on her shoes; does she kiss him before she puts on her shoes, or afterward? He can’t swear to it one way or the other. Later on he examined his memory for signs until every detail seemed ominous, but eventually he had to conclude that there was nothing strange about her that day. It was a morning like any other, exquisitely ordinary in every respect.

“I’m going for the paper,” she said. The door closed behind her. He heard her clattering footsteps on the stairs.

HE WAS HUNTING just then, deep in the research, hot on the trail of something obscure, tracking a rare butterfly-like quotation as it fluttered through thickets of dense tropical paragraphs. The chase seemed to require the utmost concentration; still, he couldn’t help but think later on that if he’d only glanced up from the work, he might’ve seen something: a look in her eyes, a foreshadowing of doom, perhaps a train ticket in her hand or the words I’m Leaving You Forever stitched on the front of her coat. Something did seem slightly amiss, but he was lost in the excitement of butterfly hunting and ignored it, until later, too late, when somewhere between Andean loanwords and the lost languages of ancient California he happened to glance at the clock. It was afternoon. He was hungry. It had been four and a half hours since she’d gone for the paper, and her watery footprints had evaporated from the floor, and he realized what it was. For the first time he could remember, she hadn’t asked if he wanted a coffee from the deli.

He told himself to stay calm, and realized in the telling that he’d been waiting for this moment. He told himself that she’d just been distracted by a bookstore. It was entirely possible. Alternatively, she liked trains: at this moment she could be halfway back from Coney Island, taking pictures of passengers, unaware of what time it was. With this in mind, he returned reluctantly to the work; a particular sentence had gotten all coiled up on him while he was trying to express something subtle and difficult, and he spent an uneasy half-hour trying to untangle the wiring and making a valiant effort not to dwell on her increasingly gaping absence, while several academic points he was trying to clarify got bored and wandered off into the middle distance. It took some time to coax them back into focus, once the sentence had been mangled beyond all recognition and the final destination of the paragraph worked out. But by the time the paragraph arrived at the station it was five o’clock, she’d left to get the paper before noon, and it no longer seemed unreasonable to think that something had gone horribly wrong.

He rose from the desk, conceding defeat, and began to check the apartment. In the bathroom nothing was different. Her comb was where it had always lived, on the haphazard shelf between the toilet and the sink. Her toothbrush was where she’d left it, beside a silver pair of tweezers on the windowsill. The living area was unchanged. Her towel was lying damply on the bedroom floor. She’d taken her purse, as she always did. But then he glanced at the wall in the bedroom, and his life broke neatly into two parts.
She had a photograph from her childhood, the only photograph of herself that she seemed to own. It was a Polaroid, faded to a milky pallor with sunlight and time: a small girl sits on a stool at a diner counter. A bottle of ketchup is partially obscured by her arm. The waitress, who has a mass of blond curls and pouty lips, leans in close across the countertop. The photographer is the girl’s father. They’ve stopped at a restaurant somewhere in the middle of the continent, having been travelling for some time. A sheen on the waitress’s face hints at the immense heat of the afternoon. Lilia said she couldn’t remember which state they were in, but she did remember that it was her twelfth birthday. The picture had been above his bed since the night she’d moved in with him, her one mark on the apartment, thumbtacked above the headboard. But when he looked up that afternoon it had been removed, the thumbtack neatly reinserted into the wall.

Eli knelt on the floor, and took several deep breaths before he could bring himself to lift an edge of the duvet. Her suitcase was gone from under the bed.

Later he was out on the street, walking quickly, but he couldn’t remember how he’d ended up there or how much time had passed since he’d left the apartment. His keys were in his pocket, and he clutched them painfully in the palm of his hand. He was breathing too quickly. He was walking fast through Brooklyn, far too late, circling desperately through the neighbourhood in wider and wider spirals, every bookstore, every café, every bodega that he thought might conceivably attract her. The traffic was too loud. The sun was too bright. The streets were haunted with a terrible conspiracy of normalcy, bookstores and cafés and bodegas and clothing stores all carrying on the charade of normal existence, as if a girl hadn’t just walked off the stage and plummeted into the chasm of the orchestra pit.

He was well aware that he was too late by hours. Still, he took the subway to Pennsylvania Station and stood there for a while anyway, overexposed in the grey atrium light, more out of a sense of ceremony than with any actual hope: he wanted at least to see her off, even if it had been four or five hours since the departure of her train. He stood still in an endless parade of travellers passing quickly, everyone pulling suitcases, meeting relatives, buying water and tickets and paperbacks for the journey, running late. Penn Station’s ever-present soldiers eyed him disinterestedly from under their berets, hands casual on the barrels of their M-16s.

That night there was a knock on his door, and he was on his feet in an instant, throwing it open, thinking perhaps . . . “Trick or Treat!” said an accompanying mother brightly. She looked at him, started to repeat herself, quickly ushered her charges on to a more promising doorstep. The whole encounter lasted less than a moment (“Come on, kids, I don’t think this nice man has any candy for us . . .”), but it remained seared into his memory nonetheless. Afterward, when the thought of Lilia leaving seeped through him like a chill, he never could shake the image of that hopeful line of trick-or-treaters (from left to right: vampire, ladybug, vampire, ghost) like a mirage on his doorstep, no one older than five, and the smallest one (the vampire on the left) sucking on a yellow lollipop. He recognized her as the little girl from the fourth floor who sometimes threw temper tantrums on the sidewalk. She was three and a half years old, give or take, and she smiled very stickily at him just before he closed the door.

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Last Night in Montreal 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
ChelseaW More than 1 year ago
Lilia Albert has been running away from people and places her entire life. It is a compulsion that has never had any consequences, at least until her latest boyfriend Eli takes to the road and follows her. Adding to the mix are other elements surrounding her long ago kid-napping - the private detective and his daughter, both whom have their own personal obsessions with the case. With alternating chapters between Eli's present and Lilia's past, the reader finds themselves hurtling through snippets in time towards an inevitable tragic ending. Mandel writes with refreshing sadness, the mystery and grief in her heart-wrenching story pulls you in and shows you everything in slow motion. And as you continue reading and learning what Lilia is running from and where she is running to, you will find yourself powerless to stop it. LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL is so full of emotion and history, it is amazing this book doesn't burst at the seams.
debbook More than 1 year ago
Eli doesn't realize that when Lilia leaves his Brooklyn apartment to go get the paper, she has left for good. Not until several hours later when he looks up from his graduate thesis and realizes she has disappeared. Something Lilia has been doing since she was seven years old. Lilia had not seen her father for years until one night, when she is seven, he tosses ice at her window and her home in Montreal. She immediately goes outside into his arms and they leave forever. They never stay anywhere longer than a couple of days, traveling around the US. Lilia writes in each bedside motel bible, unknown to her father variations of this: "I am not missing. Stop searching for me. I wish to remain vanishing. I don't want to go home." Christopher Graydon is the private detective who becomes obsessed with finding her while neglecting his own daughter, Michaela. Lilia ends up in Montreal after leaving Eli and meets up with Michaela who then sends Eli a postcard to come get her. But she refuses to tell Eli where she is until her own agenda is met. my review: I LOVED this book. I thought it was meaningful and compelling. Lilia is a mysterious, tragic figure as is Michaela. Eli is caught up by both of their stories and this makes for a brilliant debut novel. I also found the discussion of Eli's thesis on endangered languages to be very interesting, enough so that I am looking for a book to read more about this. I also found the language laws of Quebec to be fascinating as I was unaware of this. I also love reading books that lead me to other books or interests. But Lilia's story is the driving force that kept me hooked: why did she leave with her father, why did he come get her, why even as an adult can Lilia not stop vanishing? This is another fairly short novel that tells an amazing story in less than 300 pages. Run out and buy this book, I highly recommend it! my rating 5/5
MS-CentralNY More than 1 year ago
I received an uncorrected proof as an early reviewer for this book. I found the flow to be easy and kept my interest. The characters were well developed and the overall mood could have been heavy and dark, but Mandel did a great job at infusing hope and light into a potentially disheartening tale. I think this would translate wonderfully into film.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
As this book opens, Lilia has just disappeared from Eli's life. Without a hint, she has walked out of their life together and moved on. He knows she has left for good because that is her life strategy. Lilia was kidnapped by her father when she was seven, and spent her childhood traveling all over the United States with him, one step ahead of law enforcement. These years of traveling have made her unable to stay anywhere or with anyone for long. Eli is crushed, but a few weeks later, he gets a mysterious postcard from someone named Michaela who tells him that Lilia is now in Montreal. Eli immediately drops everything and goes to Montreal to attempt to find out who Michaela is, and where Lilia is now. It turns out that Michaela is the daughter of the detective who worked on the case of Lilia's kidnapping. He became obsessed and ended up deserting his own daughter and family while attempting to find Lilia. It is difficult for me to believe that Last Night In Montreal is Emily St. John Mandel's debut novel. It is a stunning book, easily one of the best I've read lately. The themes of traveling and inability to commit to a relationship, the lure of just stepping out of one life and starting another, and family secrets and obsessions are written about in a compelling fashion. I highly recommend this book to all readers, and I'm thrilled to have discovered it.
arrwa on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This book is fabulously written that the pages turn effortlessly. The story follows the lives of four individuals who lives are effected by each other. The main character: Lilia, who seems to affect all who's path she crosses, is extremely well crafted. I love the way not even the narrator, who seems to watch Lilia from afar, knows exactly what Lilia is thinking. I must admit that although the ending was very well crafted, it wasn't what I was hoping for.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Lilia was abducted by her father from her mother's Quebec house in the middle of a winter night when she was seven. Since then, she and her father lived on the road, never staying long in any one place. Eventually, he settles down in a small town in New Mexico, but Lilia keeps traveling. Her longest stay was in Brooklyn, where she met Eli, moved in with him and then left one morning.Michaela's father was a private detective hired by Lilia's mother to find her. He tracked her movements across the US, even as his daughter and wife disappeared from his life. Michaela contacts Eli, telling him that Lilia is in Montreal and that he should meet her there.Eli has been working on his dissertation for so long that he suspects that he'll never finish. When Lilia walks out, he is unable to move on. When he receives the message from Michaela, he drops everything and goes to Montreal to find Lilia.This is a book more concerned with style than realism. Neither of the female characters ever seem particularly real, coated as they are with the many layers of their colorful pasts. This doesn't make the story any less interesting, but it did mean that I had to adjust my expectations of what would happen. I'm left with more questions than answers, but the book was a pleasant read that evoked the odd geography of Montreal in winter.
suballa on LibraryThing 7 months ago
When Lilia¿s father abducts her in the middle of the night, the 7 year old willingly goes with him. Some might say she was rescued, not kidnapped. From that night on, Lilia and her father move across the United States, never staying in one place for more than a few months. Now, as an adult, Lilia doesn¿t know how to stay anywhere for very long. She has become quite adept at leaving people behind, and most people have easily let her go. That is, until Eli. Eli¿s life seemed so much better with Lilia in it that he cannot bear to think of his life without her. This is a story of obsession and the effect it has on everyone involved. From Lilia who is obsessed with moving on, to Eli who travels to another country to find her. From Christopher, the detective hired years ago to find Lilia, to Michaela, his daughter who he abandoned in his effort to find the missing girl. Michaela is the greatest victim here. Her wounds are so deep and her pain so obvious, it is heartbreaking to know that it was all caused by her father¿s obsession to search for someone who did not want or need to be found.
Manderiffic on LibraryThing 7 months ago
When Lilia says she is stepping out for coffee and never returns, Eli does not imagine the past he will uncover when he searches for her. A mysterious postcard from Montreal sends Eli on a wild goose chase that introduces him to a strange girl named Michaela and a few stories neither of them are ready to hear. Filled with a broken past, lost loves, and crazy moments at every turn, Last Night In Montreal is a wild ride with an amazing twist.I absolutely adored this book. This is Emily St. John Mandel's first novel and it was stellar. The writing was intelligent and masterful. The plot was new and exciting. I loved the structure of the story and how Mandel presented both the present and the past. I was drawn into this story almost immediately and could not tear myself away from it. I love that the pain and the hurt are so real in this book, but they are not overwhelming to the point of disbelief. Though you do not get a lot about herself from Lilia's point of view, I felt that I learned so much about her from the other characters. Eli was an amazing character and I really loved everything about him. He is incredibly brilliant and some of the discussions he has about the artistic world are just amazing. The references to linguistics and dialects have me wanting to research these topics after reading about them. Mandel did an amazing job with this novel and I can not wait to read more of what she writes in the future.Review originally posted on my blog Draw A Blank.Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Unbridled Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission¿s 16 CFR, Part 255 : ¿Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.¿
bookmagic on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Eli doesn't realize that when Lilia leaves his Brooklyn apartment to go get the paper, she has left for good. Not until several hours later when he looks up from his graduate thesis and realizes she has disappeared. Something Lilia has been doing since she was seven years old.Lilia had not seen her father for years until one night, when she is seven, he tosses ice at her window and her home in Montreal. She immediately goes outside into his arms and they leave forever. They never stay anywhere longer than a couple of days, traveling around the US. Lilia writes in each bedside motel bible, unknown to her father variations of this: "I am not missing. Stop searching for me. I wish to remain vanishing. I don't want to go home."Christopher Graydon is the private detective who becomes obsessed with finding her while neglecting his own daughter, Michaela.Lilia ends up in Montreal after leaving Eli and meets up with Michaela who then sends Eli a postcard to come get her. But she refuses to tell Eli where she is until her own agenda is met.my review: I LOVED this book. I thought it was meaningful and compelling. Lilia is a mysterious, tragic figure as is Michaela. Eli is caught up by both of their stories and this makes for a brilliant debut novel.I also found the discussion of Eli's thesis on endangered languages to be very interesting, enough so that I am looking for a book to read more about this. I also found the language laws of Quebec to be fascinating as I was unaware of this. I also love reading books that lead me to other books or interests.But Lilia's story is the driving force that kept me hooked: why did she leave with her father, why did he come get her, why even as an adult can Lilia not stop vanishing?This is another fairly short novel that tells an amazing story in less than 300 pages. Run out and buy this book, I highly recommend it!my rating 5/5
Smits on LibraryThing 7 months ago
deeply, iinteresting characters. the story moves back and forth in time and between the characters while keeping suspense high. a young girl is abducted by her father and spends 0 years travelling and hiding with him. There is a secret there that does not come out until the end of the novel. Intertwined in this story is the story of the detective following the father and daughter and the detective's daughter Michaela whose life is so deeply affected by a father who disappears too.
LynnB on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Wow! A haunting story of a young woman, Lilia, kidnapped by her non-custodial father at age 7. She spends the next 10 years on the road with him, constantly moving from place to place. Now an adult, she doesn't know how to stop disappearing -- how to be in the world rather than skimming its surface.This is also the story of the daughter, Michaela, of the private detective who becomes obsessed with Lilia's story as his own marriage falls apart.The writing is sparse, yet conveys sharp images in few words. The characters are at once surreal, yet strangely believable. The writing style conveys the strangeness of these characters in its tone -- this is really masterful writing.Deeply drawn characters, great writing and a page-turning plot. Who could ask for more? (Well, I can...has Ms. Mandel written anything else? I'm off to find out!)
clamato on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Gripping and well-crafted, I was constantly surprised by the turns the story kept taking. Kept me guessing right to the end. The gritty underbelly portrayal of Montreal was bang on. Well written and an excellent read. I am looking forward to her next book.
nicolecervone on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I really enjoyed the storyline in this book, so different from what I have been reading lately. Lilia, was a sad soul always leaving and not feeling like she could settle down anywhere. This one girl affected all those who searched for her and the families of those that searched for her. With a heart wrenching ending, somehow she finds stability.
amaryann21 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This book was very good, I found the flow to be easy and kept my interest. The characters were well developed and the overall mood could have been heavy and dark, but Mandel did a great job at infusing hope and light into an otherwise disheartening tale. I think this would translate wonderfully into film.
sagustocox on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Emily St. John Mandel's Last Night in Montreal reads like sketched notes in a private investigator's notebook. With chapters that alternate between the past and present and a variety of characters, readers will feel like they are investigating a child abduction case, while garnering a better understand of human motives and emotions."She'd been disappearing for so long that she didn't know how to stay." (Page 9 of the uncorrected proof)Lilia Albert is abducted by her father, and as they move around the United States in and out of hotels, her sense of home is vanquished. She no longer knows how to stop and settle into a "normal" life. As an adult she continues to move from place to place, carrying with her the only photograph from her past that she has--a Polaroid of her and a waitress. Lilia is a complex character, her emotions deep below the surface, and she meets a variety of people along the way--Eli, an art gallery salesman working on his thesis; Erica, a girl from Chicago with blue hair; and Michaela, an exotic dancer and part-time tightrope walker from Montreal."She came out all dressed in black, as she almost always did, and carrying the three pieces of plate that had fallen off the bed the night before; it was a light shade of blue, and sticky with pomegranate juice." (Page 2 of the uncorrected proof)Mandel peppers each chapter with just enough description and information to keep the pages turning, as readers strive to uncover the moment when Lilia's life changed and why it changed. But this mystery is more than what happens to Lilia, it's about how an obsession can rip apart a private investigator's family, encourage an ex-lover to step outside his comfort zone, and the myriad ways in which humans react to disturbing events from the past."Lilia's childhood memories took place mostly in parks and public libraries and motel rooms, and in a seemingly endless series of cars. Mirage: she used to see water in the desert. In the heat of the day it pooled on the highway, and the horizon broke into shards of white. There was a map folded on the dashboard, but it was fading steadily under the barrage of light; Lilia was supposed to be the navigator but entire states were dissolving into pinkish sepia, the lines of highways fading to gray. The names of certain cities were indistinct now along the fold, all the borders were vanishing." (Page 7 of the uncorrected proof)Readers will itch to reach the resolution of this abduction case, not only to discover why Lilia's father took her from her mother and brother, but also to see Lilia recover many of her earlier memories settled behind the dust kicked up by her continuous travels. The one minor drawback could be the chapters featuring the private detective and his obsessive pursuit of Lilia and her father even when he no longer desires their capture; these chapters dispel some of the suspense built up in previous chapters. However, Eli, Michaela, and Lilia's story lines twist and mingle throughout the novel, and Mandel does well shifting between points of view. Last Night in Montreal is not a typical mystery, but still satisfying.
glassreader on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Last Night in Montreal is a well-written debut that snags you in the beginning and keeps you hooked right to the end. Lilia is abducted by her father at the age of 7 and spends the next 9 years traveling the country as his navigator. When he finally decides to settle down, Lilia keeps on going in pursuit of the missing pieces of her life. She rubs shoulders with many along the way, changing some of them forever. You find yourself cheering her on knowing all the while the other characters you've come to know will be hurt in her pursuit of truth. It is a painful unfolding of lives changed by the choices of others. Just like in real life, some things turn out good, some tragic.
writestuff on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Lilia awakes one night when she is seven years old and finds her father waiting for her outside in the snow. She walks out of her home and into his arms. What follows is a life of constant travel - moving from place to place with the sensation of being hunted, changing identities, and an inability to create lasting relationships.When Lilia meets Eli, a young man studying dead and dying languages in New York City, she knows she will eventually leave him. But when she does just that, the act puts in motion a series of events which will not only change Lilia¿s life, but the lives of those around her.Last Night In Montreal is a novel which intersects the lives of four flawed characters: Lilia, scarred by events she cannot remember but from which she constantly flees; Eli, stuck in one place and unable to move forward until he becomes obsessed with Lilia; Christopher, the private investigator who gives up everything to find a missing child and uncover the mystery of her disappearance; and Michaela, Christopher¿s daughter who is abandoned by her parents and haunted by a girl she only knows through her father¿s notes. The mystery surrounding Lilia¿s abduction serves as the focal point from which the other characters¿ stories revolve. As they are all drawn into Lilia¿s life, they are forced to come to terms with their own weaknesses, desires, and fears. Thematically, the story is one about loss, repressed memory, family secrets and identity.Lilia is a complex character whose life is not her own. She has no recollection of her years before the abduction and seems unable to stop traveling - a compulsion which allows her to see the world and yet not be a part of it.She moved over the surface of life the way figure skaters move, fast and choreographed, but she never broke through the ice, she never pierced the surface and descended into those awful beautiful waters, she was never submerged and she never learned to swim in those currents, these current: all the shadows and light and splendorous horrors that make up the riptides of life on earth. - from Last Night In Montreal, page 119 -Last Night in Montreal is Emily St. John Mandel¿s first novel, and it is a stunning debut. Told from multiple viewpoints and moving back and forth between the present and past, the book is compulsively readable. Mandel¿s writing is flawless - poetic, compelling, and achingly beautiful. Perhaps the strongest aspect of Mandel¿s prose is her ability to fully develop her characters - people who are adrift and searching and often in pain, but who attract the reader¿s empathy and admiration despite their weaknesses.Last Night In Montreal is one of those books which once started cannot be laid aside. Disturbing and dark at times, it is a novel which will haunt the reader long after it is completed.Highly recommended.
sonyau on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The novel spirals from a single night in a girl's childhood, pulling along other characters who've been drawn into its mystery. Not a single wasted word with Emily Mandel's deft prose, and I predict that if you enter this discrete literary world, you'll long remember the girls' shared path.
jlouise77 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I'm very impressed that this is Emily St. John Mandel's first book. It was totally engrossing. The characters were so well developed and likable. The way the story was sequenced was great and not at all hard to follow. Jumping in time is something that can be very confusing if not done properly. Definitely one of the few books that kept my attention in a long while.
writergal85 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel is an exquisite debut novel filled with fragile characters holding on to situations that may or may not define them. It is about being lost and not wanting to be found; being adrift in a city dominated by a completely different culture and trying to remain centered; and finding out whether you are happier in motion or in one place. Lilia is a 22-year-old woman who has never known a permanent address for more than a decade. Her father abducted her as a young child and the pair never ceased traveling across the United States for fear of being caught. Why did her father take her and why did her never stop and settle down somewhere with Lilia? As an adult, Lilia cannot remain in any place very long. Now living in Brooklyn, her boyfriend Eli suspects she will soon leave him. He studies extinct and endangered languages. Lilia speaks five languages. Eli and Lilia are polar opposites and perhaps that is why Eli is devastated when she leaves him. He travels from Brooklyn to Montreal to find her and to get some closure. But does she want to be found? Or would it be best if Eli just let her go? Will Lilia escape again? Mandel excels in her craft by utilizing visual descriptions, detailed characterizations and a heartfelt, surprising story. Last Night in Montreal is a provocative, spellbinding novel.
lkernagh on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I have one word for this book - Wow. It contained elements that I think worked well with the story - a mystery that involves the reader in retracing the steps of the characters' past to learn the truth and the presentation of flawed characters. The search for answers abounds: Why was Lillia abducted at the age of seven from her mother's home by her father? Why is Lilia, now in her mid twenties, still on the run.... if her father is able to settle down in one location, what is Lilia on the run from? What accident is Michaela so intent on learning about?In trying to piece together the past to understand what happened to Lilia, we are aided by three flawed individuals - Eli, Lilia's most recent boyfriend that studies dead languages and believe his life is going nowhere; Christopher, the private detective originally hired to try and help solve Lilia's abduction case, a case he becomes obsessed with; and Michaela, Christopher's daughter who was abandoned by her own parents as a teenager and is haunted by Lilia's life as she understands it from reading her father's case notes. The mystery of Lilia's abduction is used to help flesh not only Lilia's story out the stories of the other characters - their flaws, weaknesses, desires and fears. Presented to the reader from the POV of the various characters, moving back and forth between the present and the past, I found this to be a captivating debut novel, poetic and striking in its delivery. I look forward to more books by the author.
ThePaxtonian on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I enjoyed Last Night in Montreal -- a dark, sad story about a girl with a mysterious past. All of the main characters in this story-- Lilia, Eli, Christopher, and Michaela--seem to be chasing something, with little apparently success. I enjoyed Lilia's relationship with her father, despite the fact that she had a far from normal childhood: the abductor is not always the villain. She and her father are on the run for years, escaping Lilia's abusive mother and ultimately escaping the private investigator hired to find Lilia. I found Eli to be wishy-washy and annoying--a rather needy pseudointellectual. I think the saddest story within the story was that of Christopher (the PI) and his daughter Michaela. His obsession with the missing Lilia lasted her entire adolescence, long after her disappearance became a cold case. In searching for Lilia, however, he abandoned his own daughter, with ultimately tragic consequences. Michaela's story was as pitiful as Lilia's. Although her childhood was certainly not abusive in the same way as Lilia's, the same feelings of abandonment and resentment dog Michaela for her entire life. I had some difficulties with the passage of time in this story -- it was often difficult to follow as the story switched back and forth between the present day and the past. Other than that, I loved this dark story and eagerly await more from Emily St. John Mandel.
Berly on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This is an edgy narrative. Lilia is abducted by her noncustodial father at age seven and they remain on the run for years. A detective is hired to search for them, and in a parallel story, we meet his daughter, Michaela. There are so many damaged people in this book, all of them distinct in their darkness. Truly a book of contrasts, exploring obsession and abandonment; words and silence; seeking and hiding; love and hatred. So many lives are altered by the secrets from Lilia's past, and the final revelation frees some and shatters others. Short chapters move the reader easily among characters and between past and present. Even through there are so many black and white contrasts, the ending leaves the reader with an unsettled feeling (and I mean that in a good way!). I am filled with the image of the angel in black and her lopsided wings. A very interesting read.
CatieN on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Lilia is abducted by her noncustodial parent, her father, when she is 7 and begins a life on the run, always moving, never engaging with people or places. In a parallel story in the book, there is Michaela, same age, whose father is a detective looking for Lilia. This is a dark book where the women are damaged and the men are obsessed with them. None of the characters are very likeable, and the author tries a little too hard in describing the scenery surrounding the characters, but there is an excellent ending (note: I didn't say happy). If you like your fiction on the edgy side, you will enjoy this book.
EmScape on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The breathtaking, lyrical story of Lilia and those who search for her begins and ends in Montreal, a cold city fiercely guarding its language. Lilia is someone who is constantly vanishing and those who love her are always looking for her. The search has enriched some lives and ruined others. As the book reveals more about Lilia's secrets, the reader is drawn in tighter, wanting, needing to know why she leaves and what she's running from. An interesting take on non-custodial parent abduction, it's impossible to have black and white feelings about Lilia's life. The characters are rich and memorable, the prose is descriptive and evocative and the story line is captivating. A stunning debut novel.