Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Unbridled Books
When an author puts together a cast of quirky, interesting characters, adds beautiful writing and a plot that moves along but is slightly nonlinear, that combination just might be my perfect storm of literary happiness. I have loved the previous two books I have read by this author and that trend continues with Last Night in Montreal. In this novel, we meet Lilia, a young woman who spent her entire life traveling from place to place with her father, who kidnapped her after an event that took place at her mother’s home which she doesn’t remember. Lilia is trying to make her way in the world but can’t seem to allow herself to stay in one place for more than a few months, even though her father has long since put down roots with a new wife and child. The reader is then introduced to Eli, who is in love with Lilia and despite the fact that she’d warned him she would eventually leave him, when she leaves New York for Montreal, Eli follows her, desperate to understand her secrets and her past, and hopeful that she will love him back.
While the book is mostly about Lilia and Eli’s longing for her and desperation to understand her, to be close to her, there are several other characters that pop up throughout the book, some of which are more important than others. They were each nuanced and interesting in their own ways, and each new person that was introduced added something significant to the overall reading experience and story arc that in some cases wasn’t fully revealed until the end of the book. I described one of Mandel’s other novels like peeling away the layers of an onion, and that analogy works well here too – there is a lot going on here, and you don’t quite get how everything and everyone is related until the very end. This, for me, is probably the most enjoyable kind of reading experience there is.
I honestly hesitate talking too much more about the plot, because I didn’t know a lot about it going in, and I think this is one that’s best experienced relatively blind. What I will say is that the eventual reveal is worth the wait, these characters fully come into view by the very end, and the journey in this case was even more enjoyable than the eventual destination. I absolutely loved this novel and I believe it will stick with me for a long time.