Tara Conklin is a generous writer who deftly brings us into the world of this fictional family, an engrossing and vivid place where I was happy to stay. The Last Romantics is a richly observed novel, both ambitious and welcoming.
All of the luxuriously spun characters in The Last Romantics, entwined via that impossible web we call family, unfold over their many years with the perfect balance of familiarity and wonder that makes turning their pages such a pleasure.
There’s so much love and loss in this book that I read it with a box of tissues, laughing with astonishment through the tears. The kind of book you lose yourself in.
A triumph of storytelling, an ambitious examination of the failures of love and how we, against all odds, find a way to survive.... A complex, resonant work that will reshape your understanding of family.”
Perfectly paced, affecting fiction.
From the vantage point of a future ravaged by global warming, Conklin's (The House Girl, 2013) narrator describes the lingering consequences of the traumatic childhood she shared with her three siblings.
In 2079, when the world is increasingly devastated by floods and other climate disasters, renowned 102-year-old poet Fiona Skinner meets a young woman whose parents named her Luna after a woman mentioned in Fiona's world-famous work, "The Love Poem," written 75 years earlier. To answer the young woman's questions about the original Luna, Fiona tells the story of her childhood: After their father dies suddenly in 1981 and their mother, Noni, retreats to her bedroom in paralyzing depression, 4-year-old Fiona, 7-year-old Joe, 8-year-old Caroline, and 11-year-old Renee must fend for themselves for several years in what they call "the Pause" until Noni eventually reclaims her parental responsibility. The Pause creates a powerful bond among the children but affects each differently. Renee carries her take-charge sense of responsibility into a high-powered medical career but avoids having children of her own. Despite the disapproval of Noni, who has become wary of men and dependent womanhood, Caroline marries early and creates a perfect domestic world for her professor husband and their children without considering what world she wants for herself. Coddled, slightly clueless Fiona takes a mindless job at a nonprofit called ClimateSenseNow! (hint, hint) and writes a blog recounting each of her sexual experiences in numerical order. Passionately protective of his sisters, Joe is perhaps the most damaged. Despite early promise, his life skitters off the rails, redeemed only briefly by his love affair with the young bartender Luna before he suffers what Fiona calls his "accident." In reaction, the sisters re-examine their own priorities. A problem, especially in scenes involving Joe, is that Conklin sometimes describes private thoughts and feelings Fiona could not know, although according to the novel's framing device she is recounting her own memory of events.
Basically a lukewarm turn-of-the-21st-century family melodrama despite the intermittent, never adequately integrated references to a future wracked by climate change.
An intimate, soul-searing examination of a modern family and the ties that bind, for better or worse.
It is the strength and fragility of the siblings’ bond, the evolving nature of love that is at the core of Conklin’s novel....Gracefully rendered, The Last Romantics focuses on the familiar theme of family with great originality.
Conklin examines her characters’ lives with generosity and an unflinching eye for the complexities of love and family.... Fans of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections will find similar pleasures in the intelligence and empathy on display here.
Pick up The Last Romantics when you want to be swept into a fictional family....As the narrative traces [the Skinner siblings’] converging and diverging paths over the course of their lives—and promises made, kept, broken, changed—you’ll fall deeper and deeper in.
A modern epic...in the vein of Commonwealth, THE LAST ROMANTICS is a sweeping look at what binds families together.
An absorbing and redemptive novel of grace, craft and heroic characters.
Conklin's sophomore effort (following The House Girl) recounts the complex but loving relationships of four siblings whose lives are irrevocably changed after their father dies unexpectedly when they're children, ranging in age from four to 11. Their mother sinks into depression and leaves them to fend for themselves for three years. Elder sister Renee shoulders the majority of the burden and takes this sense of responsibility into a career as a surgeon. Caroline seeks traditional marriage and motherhood at the expense of personal fulfillment, until later in life. Joe, the beloved only brother, becomes the focus of attention and promise for the whole family; his demons are ignored or dismissed until too late. Fiona, the youngest, eventually a celebrated poet, serves as the omniscient narrator. Another family tragedy leads them all to reexamine their lives and their relationships and the impact their early loss had on them. A somewhat implausible framing device, set in the year 2079, serves little purpose, except perhaps to explain the occasional anachronisms and time line inconsistencies that could have been caught by more careful editing. VERDICT Structural problems aside, the examination of trauma and its impact on family relationships is believably rendered. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis