Last Kiss


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The book revolves around characters that live in a small beach town called Hubbard's Point.  There are two main generations in the story - Nell, a teenager whose boyfriend (Charlie) might have been murdered and Sheridan who is Charlie's mother.  Nell hires a private investigator who just happens to be Sheridan's ex-boyfriend.

Sheridan's family has a history of magical or witch-type behaviors including spells and incantations.  It seemed a little hokey to me and was not at all what I was expecting to find in this book. (ref. ePg. 38)  There is a side story of Nell's dad, Jack and his girlfriend, Stevie. Jack's first wife (Nell's mom) died. They are expecting a child together but she is reluctant to get married, as it would be her fourth.   

I've had this book on my shelf for a while.  Even though I had the paper back I read about 75% of this as an eBook because it is easier to read eVersions in bed at night.  

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 3

Religion: 2

Gruesome: 0

Suspense: 3

Morality: 2

Traditional:  2

Sex - a wife reflects on moments of strong passion with her husband (ePg. 93, loc. 1173) - poetic not graphic. Teenagers have several opportunities but never seem to do much more than kiss. (ePg. 126)  A memory of making love on a beach - nothing more graphic than clothes off and cool air on skin. (ePg. 215)  Two adults experience passionate writhing and exquisite longing and then "he entered her".  (end Ch. 16)

Religion - Nell said she was Catholic but didn't go to church much.  "She believed in resurrection.  She knew that Charlie's bones were in the ground, but she had believed that he had risen from the dead and was in heaven."  (pg. 275)  She also wondered if Charlie's ghost was haunting her.  While reflecting on her grandmother being named after Aphrodite, goddess of love, Sheridan reflects, "They had all come from the sea, and would return to the sea". (ePg. 429, loc. 5622) - something that could conflict with a lot of religions.

Gruesome - nothing stands out

Suspense - The beginning of Part 2 starts with a jolt.  A confession, a fire, and a race against the elements all combine for a bit of tension towards the end.  

Morality - a man uses his relationships with women for his own financial gain, several characters try to atone for their mistakes

Traditional - "...her grandmother, mother, and aunts all practiced a form of magic called Aphrodeen--white witchcraft found mainly in Ireland, devoted to filling the world with love." (ePg. 38, loc. 469)  Sheridan's grandmother's training in second sight and calling the dead is detailed on ePg. 38, loc. 472.  One guy tells his male friend "F*** you". (ePg. 62, loc. 778)  A woman has been divorced three times and is now expecting a child with her boyfriend. (ePg. 94, loc. 1194)  Jack and Stevie lightened their workloads to support Nell after Charlie's death. (ePg. 95, loc. 1207)  One lady has an unconventional view of marriage. (ePg. 220) No LGBTQ references.

This is not the first novel I've read that involves a character who is already dead.  It seemed like there was an unusually lot of information and details for Charlie. (ref. ePg. 11, loc. 130) I don't know that it was particularly bad - just different.

I always enjoy historical fiction and while this story is not loaded with it there was a nod to "Annie Glover" in regards to one of Sheridan's folk songs.  (ePg. 42, loc. 515)  There was also a reference to Sheridan La Fanu, who really was an Irish writer of gothic tales. (ePg. 122)

The story is thorough enough to include fictional history too.  Through Gavin we learn the backstory of Charlie's father, Randy Quill.  He was quite the character, a con-man type who swindled women out of lots of money. (Ch. 6)  At the end of Chapter 13 there is a twist that kicks things up a notch on what was a sleepy little tale set in a sleepy little town.  I felt like the majority of the story, especially the first 150 pages, focused on the grownups' story lines.  So when we suddenly had  youth beach scene (ePg. 148) it seemed disjointed.

BLOOPERS:  
On ePg. 380, loc. 4982 Jeff looks at "that table" and I thought -what table?  Have we heard about this table before?  And more to the point, had Jeff?  I scanned back and didn't see anything.  Not until ten pages later, (ePg. 390, loc. 5105) does the table, and the candles burning on it, become significant and earn the right to be referred to as "that table".

On ePg. 384 Gavin says they are "WOXOF".  When someone said "Excuse me?" Gavin replied, "Indefinite ceiling zero, sky obscured, zero visibility".  I understood it was very foggy, but I still didn't know what WOFOX stood for.  Later, when I was able to Google it, I saw that WOXOF is defined, word for word, matching Gavin's explanation.  I would have appreciated a little more connection though, like, "it's the national weather service terminology for indefinite ceiling...".

"She lay in a heap, unconscious." (ePg. 414, loc. 5418)  He never revived her but a few lines later, "his other arm [was] supporting Sheridan". (ePg. 414, loc. 5424)  When they got outside she was still unconscious.  Later she even said, "When you put your mouth on mine, up at the house, I tasted salt...I think it woke me up." (ePg. 425, loc. 5565) and Gavin didn't try to resuscitate her until outside.  So how was he able to support an unconscious body with just one arm?  Personally I think it would've been more heroic if he carried her out, she was barely conscious and asked him to go back in for Jeff, which he would do successfully, with maybe only a moment's hesitation.  

I was a little thrown that Maddie was mentioned specifically as a bridesmaid.  I didn't even know who Maddie was.  I searched the eBook for Maddie and found her mentioned only two other times - on ePg 48 when Sheridan was thinking about the supporting group of friends she'd had when Charlie was little and then again on ePg. 157 Stevie was talking about when she'd had artist's block - "Emma had died, and Maddie was drinking...".  I honestly don't think that qualifies her to be a bridesmaid that is specifically mentioned.  Why wasn't Sheridan a bridesmaid?

Discussion Questions

Nell said, "Once someone you love dies, you're not scared of graveyards". (ePg. 8)  Do you agree?

Sheridan remembered Charlie at four years old playing in the garden.  (ePg. 13, loc. 158) 
Share a cute story of your child at 4.

Sheridan reflected on a memory of Charlie and then questioned if she remembered it accurately, wondering if she'd become impatient and had fussed at Charlie. (ePg. 14, loc. 166)  Is this a healthy habit...to reshape our memories?  ...or to question them?

Did you wonder if Gavin was Charlie's father?

"Gavin knew about forks in the road.  Going left, and only later realizing that if you'd gone right everything in your life would have been different.  Split-second decisions--or ones you had the chance to consider for years.  The choice of who to love, what to do, whether to stay together..." (ePg. 35, loc. 439)
What forks do you reconsider?

"Americans were less open to the sixth sense, the one located in her heart.  They'd always been suspicious..." (ePg. 41, loc. 507)  Do you think this is an American sentiment or a modern-age thing?

Sheridan remembered that, "Growing up, there had always been candles burning, not for the light they gave, but for remembrance.  Her grandmother used to say the flame honored a person's spirit, reminded the living that the dead were never really gone." (ePg. 47, loc. 579)  Agatha lit a candle for Charlie when she heard Sheridan talking about him. (ePg. 79, loc. 985)  What do candles mean to you?  Why do you burn them?

When Sheridan saw Gavin after twenty years, "She knew him instantly.  Even though she couldn't see his face, couldn't get a clear look at his hair or eyes or mouth or anything, ...she knew it was Gavin.  She just knew."  (ePg. 49, loc. 608)  Besides your immediate family, who would you recognize in this way?

Sheridan didn't like seeing Gavin on the rock.  (ePg. 53, loc. 660)  Are there any places you avoid because you associate them with bad memories?

"Pain traveled, and so did Gavin.  He worked for people who had lost everything.  It was his job and mission to help them recover it again." (ePg. 66, loc. 832)  Why did Gavin not try to recover what he lost?

Nell knew that Charlie loved Charlotte's Web because his mom used to read it to him when he was little. (ePg. 70, loc 878)  What are your favorite books from childhood?

Gavin used to dive off a bridge. (ePg. 81, loc. 1014)  What is the highest dive you've ever done?

Sheridan said she broke up with Gavin because, "She just couldn't keep hoping that things would get better." (ePg. 120)  So instead she traded for someone worse?  Why would that be an attractive option?

When Sheridan asked Gavin to leave her alone (ePg. 124) Gavin was ready to promise anything but later reflected that was the one promise he couldn't make.  If he truly loved her, would he have let her go and respected her wishes, or did his refusal to let her go show that he loved her so much he knew what was best for her and his determination to love her through the tough times?

Can you relate to Gavin's feelings about the "Talk To Me" site (social media)?  He said, "If these were his kids he'd lock up their computers." (ePg. 135)  Is that a practical idea in today's world?

How does Sheridan the emotional song writer contrast with the Sheridan who didn't want to get hurt again? (ePg. 142)  Sheridan who wrote folk songs to Sheridan who couldn't accept the "complete Gavin Dawson" for who he was? (ePg. 144)

Have you ever had a moment of clarity, like Sheridan did when Gavin told her he wouldn't fight again? (ePg. 145)  That was the end of their relationship the first time.  But was she right? Did Gavin ever fight again?

Stevie felt that after several marriages, marriage didn't matter - only love did. (ePg. 159)   She also felt like Jack was her number one and she didn't want him to be officially number four. (ePg. 220) Can you relate to her sentiment?  Should Jack have been more understanding of Stevie's feelings?  He did admit that a piece of paper and a  ceremony didn't mean much, but he still wanted it anyway because he knew that everything in life is temporary. (ePg. 222)

What did you suspect was the connection between Charlie and Lisa Marie Langton, the lead singer for Cumberland? (ePg. 176)

Nell thought most adults were stuck in a box.  She also believed that "love actually set people free, rather than keeping them chained". (ePg. 201)  Do you agree with young Nell's insight? 

Sheridan names several singers by first name: Emmylou, Patsy, Lucinda, Loretta, Crystal, Dolly.  (ePg. 225)  
TRIVIA Question: name their last names
Which two singers are related?  What is their relation?
(Harris, Cline, Williams, Lynn, Gayle, Parton)
Loretta and Crystal are sisters.

Sheridan remembered using a candle for a microphone and mis-singing the lyrics for "Half the Way" by Crystal Gayle when she was young. (ePg. 226)  What are some of your musical antics and blunders?

Sheridan told Charlie about when she used to be cool, with a different haircut and motorcycle jacket. (ePg. 226, loc. 2969)  What was your coolest look?

Luann Rice seems to have a talent for making up band names...Cumberland, Five Graves to Cairo, Brass Ring, Mothertruckers. (ePg. 227, loc. 2975)  What would your invented band names be?  

Gavin had wanted to protect Sheridan from the truth of what type of man her ex-husband was.  (ePg. 230, loc. 3031)  How much did Sheridan actually know and when did she find out?  How did her knowing or not knowing affect the ultimate outcome of the story?

When Vincent was a kid, "He'd worn white socks.  His mother had made him wear a real bathing suit instead of going swimming in cutoffs."  (ePg. 234, loc. 3075)  What geeky things have you forced your kids to do?  Or what did your parents force you to do?

Jeff "hoped she wouldn't think too carefully about the timetable of what he'd told her already.  He hoped she wouldn't catch him in one of the few lies...". (ePg. 295, loc. 3839)  Did you know what the lie was?  

Gavin and Sheridan both said it was the same sand and the same water, exactly, as when they were young. (ePg. 300, loc. 3917)  Do you think of the ocean as constant or ever-changing?

Is anyone an open book?  Gavin said "everything in life is a mystery" and "there is a 'dark unknowability' in every one of us." (pg. 310)

At the end of Chapter 16 was Peggy's hurt at Nell not telling her Charlie had a brother realistic or just a plot ploy to prove Gavin's point?

In Chapter 17 Sheridan hopes the blue car will drive by again just because the driver looked like Charlie.  Share your experiences with seeing someone who reminded you of a deceased loved one.

Aphrodite had lots of superstitions (pg. 376).  What superstitions did your family pass down?

Sheridan thought being a mother meant "you have to consider the worst possibilities before you can learn to relax".  (ePG. 391, loc. 5124)  Think of your early days as a mother.  Would you agree with Sheridan?

The story features a lot of rivers, oceans, bays - almost as a constant part of the background landscape.  Lisa even commented that rivers keep us all connected. (ePg. 399, loc. 5229) What is the symbolism of all these bodies of water?

When they were younger Sheridan had been bothered by Gavin's need to fight.  Jeff reflected that he felt the emotions rising and hadn't wanted them to stop. (ePg. 401, loc. 5262)  Was his need to fight the same or different than Gavin's?

Were you surprised that Sheridan was forgiving towards Jeff and encouraged Nell to do the same. (ePg. 419, loc. 5491)

"Aphrodite had believed in so few rules, but she'd always told them to be careful in the fog.  She'd told Sheridan and her sisters not to step on fairy tablecloths - cobwebs stretched between blades of grass, silvery with fog's dew - and not to stand with their backs to a mirror, and that when they saw animals on foggy nights, they were really human ghosts."  Sheridan realized these rules were not to protect her and her sisters, but to protect the spirits and let them rest.  (ePg. 427, loc. 5606)  What rules did your grandmother, or your family pass down?

Theme Ideas

Sheridan "grew roses and morning glories, clematis and delphinium.  Day lilies, orange and yellow, bloomed along the privet hedge." (ePg. 13, loc. 151)  Decorate with fresh flowers.

Sheridan had an herb garden "with rosemary, sage, wild thyme, mint, lemon verbena, lavender, and burnet". (ePg. 13, loc. 153)  Give sprigs of herbs to your guests, tied with pretty ribbon.

Serve Good Humour bars, like Charlie still wanted after he buried his money in the garden. (ePg. 14, loc. 163)

Serve Heineken and root beer like Gavin and Nell drank when she first visited him on the boat. (ePg. 24, loc. 288 & ePg. 26, loc. 305)  Serve Wild Turkey like Sheridan drank when she was alone. (ePg. 46, loc. 572 & ePg. 56, loc. 696)

Decorate with "bouquets of herbs upside-down and drying from the rafters; shelves filled with jars of dried and powdered herbs, seashells, channeled-whelk egg cases, mice skulls, owl pellets, birds' eggs, goldfinch and blue jay feathers." (ePg. 55, loc. 684) like in Sheridan's house.

Serve Irish tea brewed with lemon verbena with Southern style sugar syrup. (ePg. 76, loc. 949) Serve with orange cookies (a recipe that includes orange peel and vanilla bean) like Sheridan's sisters brought over. (ePg. 76, loc. 954)  Light a honeysuckle-scented candle like Agatha lit. (ePg. 78, loc. 981)  Sheridan and Bunny drank lemon verbena tea with mint and orange rind on her terrace after the thunderstorm in Chapter 8. (ePg. 141)

Serve Agatha's planned menu for the dinner party: curried summer squash soup, tiny lobster canapes and grilled striper with fresh garden herbs. (ePg. 147) Or the actual menu: chilled peach soup with creme fraiche and sprigs of sage, the lobster canapes, filet of sole baked with buttere breadcrumbs, roasted rosemary potatoes, baguettes and Camembert. (ePg. 194) Include a pie that Stevie might have brought. (ePg. 164)  Meet on a terrace, decorated like "a scene out of the Arabian Nights"  with paper lanterns, tiny tea light candles, low Waterford vases filled with fresh flowers and herbs (beach roses, honeysuckle, lavender and mint) and old, embroidered linens. (ePg. 192)  Include place cards, like Stevie made (ePg. 193) and a "pitcher of ice water infused with cucumber slices, lemon, and spearmint (ePg. 193) and St. Emilion wine. (ePg. 196)  For dessert, "coffee and tea, orange cookies and blueberry buckle and a peach pie". (ePg. 207)

Stevie and Nell used to go to the cemetery and make grave rubbings. (ePg. 151)  They are also mentioned on pg. 247.  Find a cemetery near you with intersting grave markers and take your group on a field trip to make your own rubbings.

Serve coffee and doughnuts like Gavin had on the train to New York City. (ePg. 165)

Before you eat, make the toast that Agatha made, " With the power of the stars, and the deepness of the blue, from the bottom of the sea, and the strength of me and you, with all there is, and all there was, may love touch each at this table tonight, may the wildest dreams come true, may it be done." (ePg. 203)

Hold book club around a fire pit like Jack made a fire on the beach after the dinner party. (ePg. 221)

Sheridan and Charlie had a lot of laughs when looking at pictures of her when she was younger and cooler.  (ePg. 227, loc. 2975)  Have guests bring pictures to share of their younger, cooler days.

Serve hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, tuna salad, lemonade, sodas, coffee and milkshakes, recreating the menu from Foley's where Nell worked. (pgs. 240 - 241)

Serve penny candy, Mountain Dew, lemonade and strawberry ice cream sodas like Gavin remembered from his youth. (end Ch. 16)

Recreate the menu for Stevie and Jack's wedding:  lobster canapes, cucumber sandwiches, Hubbard's point tomato soup, and Coquilles St. Jacques - scallops served in their own shells". (ePg. 439, loc. 5756)


Playlist:
  • female folk-music such as Sheridan played
  • "Nell's current obsessions" - Arctic Monkeys and Hold Steady (ePg. 130)
  • Charlie's favorites - Brad Paisley, George Strait (Cumberland is not a real band)
  • Blues music, such as Robert Johnson, like Gavin thoght about playing back on his boat after the dinner party. (ePg. 213)
  • Merle Haggard, since he gave Sheridan her guitar (ePg. 223)
  • Ballads, in honor of Charlie (ePg. 225)
  • Patty Griffin, Emmylou (Harris), Patsy (Clein), Lucinda (Williams), Loretta (Lynn), Crystal (Gayle), Dolly (Parton) like Sheridan would sing when Charlie couldn't sleep. (ePg. 225)  Specifically "Half the Way" by Crystal Gayle (ePg. 226)
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter and Maura Fogarty, who had a similar background to Sheridan (ePg. 225)
  • One of Charlie's favorite lullabies, "Gentle on My Mind" (ePg. 229, loc. 3005)

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