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The Greatest Works Of Poetry Are The Stories We Tell About Ourselves When The Renowned Poet Fiona Skinner Is Asked About The Inspiration Behind Her Iconic Work, The Love Poem, She Tells Her Audience A Story About Her Family And A Betrayal That Reverberates Through TimeIt Begins In A Big Yellow House, With A Funeral, An Iron Poker, And A Brief Variation Forever Known As The Pause A Free And Feral Summer In A Middle Class Connecticut Town Caught Between The Predictable Life They Once Led And An Uncertain Future That Stretches Before Them, The Skinner Siblings Fierce Renee, Sensitive Caroline, Golden Boy Joe And Watchful Fiona Emerge From The Pause Staunchly Loyal And Deeply Connected Two Decades Later, The Siblings Find Themselves Once Again Confronted With A Family Crisis That Tests The Strength Of These Bonds And Forces Them To Question The Life Choices They Ve Made And To Ask What, Exactly, They Are Willing To Do For Love A Sweeping Yet Intimate Epic About One American Family, The Last Romantics Is An Unforgettable Exploration Of The Ties That Bind Us Together, The Responsibilities We Embrace And The Duties We Resent, And How We Can Lose And Sometimes Rescue The Ones We Love A Novel That Pierces The Heart And Lingers In The Mind, It Is Also A Beautiful Meditation On The Power Of Stories How They Guide Us Through Difficult Times, Help Us Understand The Past, And Point The Way Toward Our Future 4.5 Stars.Thank you to the publisher William Morrow Harper Collins who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss This is a story about a family with four kids who live in the middle class town of Bexley, Connecticut It s 1981, and their father, Ellis Avery Skinner dies suddenly at the age of 34 while working on a patient in his dental practice Three months following his death, the family must move from their comfortable and stately yellow colonial to a gray one story ranch house six miles away in a less privileged part of town Their stay at home Mom Antonia known as Noni never realized that they had no reserves of money At this time, the oldest Renee was eleven, Caroline eight, Joe seven, and the youngestFionafour In the wake of her new circumstances, Mom Noni had a breakdown of sorts and retreated from all responsibility for her children, spending most of her time secluded in her bedroom A composed and sensible Renee assumed responsibility for her younger siblings This period of time would later be dubbed The Pause and would last a couple of years The children became feral, dirty wild things that summer and adopted the nearby pond as their magical place As the only boy, brother Joe was already treasured, but he soon became idolized even He had a natural born talent for baseball, an engaging personality and was physically attractive It was like he had a golden aura about him and great things were expected to come his way Renee was extremely responsible and was firmly focused on a medical career Caroline had a tendency to cry easily and seemed the most pliable Renee loved to escape in her books and had a flair for writing The Pause ends after an Aunt stays with the family for awhile, providing a strong and sensible adult presence that helps to pull Noni out of the abyss Noni becomes stronger, gets a job and from that point on stresses the importance of not relying upon a man for success With the drama of the father husband s death and the Mom s temporary breakdown in the past, the children are now older and pursing their own lives Now the conflict of the book settles upon the Godlike figure of Joe, whose life is not as charmed as previously thought There are struggles rippling throughout the years where the sisters attention must be directed towards the simmering problems with Joe Since The Pause , the sisters are constantly protecting their mother from any family strife that could trigger a mental relapse Fiona channels her literary prowess into a blog called The Last Romantic where she anonymously catalogues and critiques each of her sexual partners.This was a very engaging and interesting read spanning decades with distinctly different characters that have burrowed themselves into my heart Highly recommended. Once again, I find myself in the outlier club I read to 50% and speed read skimmed the rest to see if I was missing out on a great read I wasn t.Blurbs compare it to Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, a book I loved and awarded 5 stars In my opinion this book was nothing like Patchett s beyond the fact that both books were about siblings.What worked The premise is good and the beginning of the book when the children were young was interesting and engaging I was sure I had a winner But then.What didn t work the characters were all unlikable and unsympathetic as adults I m a big fan of unlikable characters and dysfunctional families But I felt totally unengaged with these siblings I just didn t care there was an inordinate amount of importance placed on events that happened in their childhood and reverberated throughout their lives I grew impatient and wanted to tell them to grow up, move on, and quit blaming their childhood for bad decisions made in adulthood a strong feminist theme, which I would ordinarily be all for but this had a strong anti men sentiment running throughout which I find disturbing a character has a blog to recount her numerous one night stands and rate the men s sexual prowess Is this supposed to be feminism Behaving badly and cruelty is not feminism weird insertion of narrative set in a future dystopian world in 2079 I have no idea why this was included but it felt out of place and superfluous and had nothing to do with the story What was the point strong foreshadowing of a watershed event and a person named Luna but the big reveal was a huge letdown I was left thinking so what shifting points of view which took me out of the story and the biggest letdown of all I was bored.I m sorry to say I can t recommend this one.Once again my reading friend Marialyce and I read this as a buddy read and we both agreed this book was a huge disappointment. 4.5 stars The Last Romantics is about love Real love, true love Imperfect, wretched, weak love No fairy tales, no poetry It is about the negotiations we undertake with ourselves in the name of loveThis is the story of four siblings Renee, Caroline, Joseph, and Fiona Skinner When their unexpectedly dies when they are young children, their mother goes into a deep depression that they deem the Pause The four siblings must learn to survive on their own and, in doing so, form a deep, unbreakable bond The book covers trials and tribulations they experience over the course of a century, told primarily through Fiona s eyes Throughout their lives, they suffer through great tragedies and hardships, and although they fight and have their issues, their love for one another never wanes.While told primarily through Fiona s POV, beginning in the year 2079 and alternating back to the past, the reader gets to see a complete picture of each of the sibling s lives The Last Romantics is a beautifully written tribute to the love between these four siblings It is an emotional and touching read At times, it is heart wrenching but as a reader, I was able to find comfort knowing that the Skinner siblings were always there for one another Conklin s writing is what sets this book from other novels about familial love Her writing is nuanced and carefully crafted She made me feel like I knew each of the Skinner children While the plot is one I have seen before, Conklin tells this story in a different way Perhaps, it is Fiona s list of words or the oft mentioned, but never fully revealed The Love Poem, or something else entirely that propels this book to another level and leaves the reader with a thought provoking take on loveThere is nothing romantic about love Only the most naive believe it will save them Only the hardiest of us will surviveI received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and William Morrow in exchange for an honest review. The heartbreaking times during the Pause for the four Skinner children is tempered only by the love they have for each other and the care they give to each other This time during their mother s paralyzing grief over the loss of their father, when all they had was each other will break your heart but uplift you with the strength and love of these children After three years of debilitating depression, their mother Noni, finally lifts herself back with the help of a relative All of them are forever changed Their story is told by Fiona, the youngest of the siblings when late in her life at 102, she is speaking about the poetry she has written and published and is asked about her inspiration She says that this is a story about the failures of love and there are some failures, but this story for me was mostly about when love didn t fail As with a lot of families, there are secrets and while they are always there for each other, these siblings sometimes keep things from each other, about who they are, about things that happen because they want to protect each other The bonds from their childhood are still strong later in their lives and when things happen to estrange them at times, they always come together These are characters that I didn t want to leave behind because Tara Conklin allows the reader to be intimately involved in their lives for such a long time I m not going to give details about them or their story because they need to be discovered by whoever reads this.I chose to read this because I really enjoyed Tara Conklin s first novel, The House Girl This was a very different story, but I looked back to see what I said about her first novel I said it was beautifully written and emotional and I can say the say about this one which I also highly recommend I received an advanced copy of this book from William Morrow HarperCollins through Edelweiss.