Hey, everyone! Today I'm part of the tour for The Last Hour. Don't forget to stop by the other blogs; you can find the schedule here.
Title: The Last Hour (The Thompson Sisters)
Author: Charles Sheehan-Miles
Publisher: Cincinnatus Press
Released: 19th April 2013
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't really know where I'm supposed to start with this review. Five and a half hours after finishing it, and this book is impacting me even harder than when I read it. I guess my brain needed time to process all the emotion and some of the things that go on in here, because it absolutely was not an easy ride. Reading this was like being on a super fast, super intense rollercoaster: emotions running high and as much as you might want to, you can't get off. There are loop-de-loops for when things turn upside down, and a couple of slower areas where you can sit back and relax, thinking everything's going to be fine, admiring the scenery - but then another loop-de-loop appears right in front of you and you're back to speeding along. And then, when you know the rollercoaster is coming to an end, you don't come to a sweet, safe stop. No. You get flung off it altogether.
Carrie and Ray's lives have been hell for the past year and a half. After meeting each other in Just Remember to Breathe, time saw them falling for each other hard and fast. Neither was expecting to find someone so perfect for them, and they couldn't have been more thrilled, each completely in love. And for a time, everything is perfect. And then it all falls apart. Ray knows something from Afghanistan, and now that he's shared it, he doesn't get a moment's peace; the military and the FBI are on his back. Carrie's entire career is at risk because of someone's false accusations. With the investigation and press interfering in their daily lives, it's a struggle to make it through. But then, just when they think things can't possibly get any worse, a car accident puts Ray and one of Carrie's younger sisters in hospital. And it's this that's really going to change everything.
The Last Hour addresses so many issues, so many emotions. And most important of all, it's a real representation of life. There are going to be characters you despise, acts and images of brutality, events that you wish didn't happen because don't Carrie and Ray deserve to be happy, for goodness' sake? Interwoven with those are the sweeter moments, of course, times when you can see how much they love each other, when they forget about everything else. But life is not easy, not simple, it's not pretty - and Sheehan-Miles does not pretend otherwise. This book is unapologetically real. If life doesn't come with guarantees, with shortcuts and, sometimes, with fairytale endings...why should this story? And, as always, Sheehan-Miles writes this beautifully, in a manner that makes everything even more real, maintaining the complexity that is found in both of the other Thompson Sisters standalones. His writing is a treasure to read.
If this book is true to life, it makes sense that it would leave me heartbroken. Before I started it, I had absolutely no idea that Carrie and Ray's journey would be so tough. I know that after finishing Just Remember to Breathe, I'd been so looking forward to reading Carrie's story, because she's always been a fantastic sister, supportive, and acting like a mother to her younger sisters where their actual one failed. I wanted to know her story. I wanted her to find her own happiness. I'd loved Ray, too, and I wanted the same for him. What amazed me most of all was how strong they both were. I was completely overwhelmed by how their love for each other enabled them to be supportive and courageous even while their lives were crashing down around them. And even after the accident, and Carrie's husband is lying in a hospital bed, she is still taking care of her sisters. After doing it for so many years, it's what she's used to. What she wants. I felt relief and compassion when she started letting her sisters take care of her. And Ray, before the accident, he didn't want her getting caught up with all his baggage and then with the implications of the investigation, so he was strong enough to give her the option to leave. And when she stayed, he was always there for her. These two were utterly selfless, utterly compassionate, completely deserving of the other. Which made everything that much harder.
Clearly if you want fluff, Charles Sheehan-Miles is not the way to go. But if you want to read something outstanding? Something filled to the brim with emotions and questions and relationships and strength and identity? That's when you go looking for him. This is definitely the hardest of the three books, and I can't say I'm entirely happy with the way things ended. But I think that's a good thing. This isn't the first book I've read with a difficult ending, and it doubtless won't be my last. It's a challenge to meet, something to wrap my head around and accept and reflect on. I think about this book and I think about all the issues that come with it. About choices, and how they define you and what consequences they have. I think about the characters' lives after all this has happened, and how they're going to move on, and, in some cases, hopefully grow. It's a standalone, and the last of the Thompson Sisters books, so we'll never really know. But there's enough in the end to give you hope. A small amount, but it's there nevertheless. Life is one big juxtaposition, and Sheehan-Miles truly offers something extraordinary in his presentation of it.
I know this is a slightly longer review than usual. I know the analogy I used probably isn't all that great, and some of this maybe doesn't make sense. But what I also know is that I can't possibly write something that will fully do this book justice. It really adds something to your life, and despite the pain that comes with reading it, I can say without hesitation that this was worth it. Completely. So for those of you looking for that outstanding read? This book is one to remember. More than that, this author is. And I can't begin to express how grateful I am that he's written such books, and that I actually got to read them and have them be a part of my life.
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