Sunday, May 6, 2012

Last Will

I have a love-hate relationship with books about broken people. Sometimes, I'm in the mood and enjoy reading about people who can't get out of their own way to discover happiness. And then there are times when I just do not have the patience to read about people who need fixing. I've got enough problems.

So after I started Bryn Greenwood's Last Will and discovered that it is about not one, but TWO broken people, I realized I had to suck it up and get past my initial bad mood. I'd just finished with Insurgent, and felt exhausted in every sense of the word. I realized, though, that it isn't fair to Bryn Greenwood that I was too tired to read about another fractured soul so soon after leaving Tris.

I'm glad I gave Last Will a chance.

Bernie Raleigh's grandfather dies at age 90, leaving Bernie the sole heir. While some folks would be overjoyed to inherit so much money that, as Bernie later observes, they can write a check for $20 million and not notice it, Bernie is not one of them. He has worked very hard for nearly 20 years to hide, and inheriting his grandfather's legacy means putting himself back in the public.

But that's nothing, really, when it comes to Bernie. For Bernie Raleigh has not one but two tragedies he must overcome: first there was his kidnapping as a young teenager, which he barely survived and which continues to haunt him, rendering him incapable of sleeping in the same bed as another person. (It also renders him incapable of a certain completion during sexy times, we'll just say.) That would cripple anyone, but Bernie later suffered another sadness when his father and older brother died in an auto accident. With their deaths, Bernie became the designee to take over his grandfather's businesses, and he also became the lightning rod for his mother's disappointment. He was, is not, and never will be his older brother, much to her chagrin.

When he returns home for his grandfather's funeral, he sees the exotic Meda, a maid and single mother. He is attracted to her immediately. Meda has her own issues, not the least of which is a grandmother convinced that she was abducted by aliens. Medea herself suffered a horrific crime; the scar across her lips bears witness to her suffering.

Bernie and Meda engage in a romance, proceeding in fits and starts. These two have a LOT of hurdles to cross, given their own tortured backgrounds. They also have to get past Bernie's wealth and Meda's lack thereof:
"I don't like taking your money."
"You don't know what it's like being me!" The outburst startled Annadore into tears. Meda reached out and stroked her hair until she settled down again. 
"You don't know what it's like being me," I said quietly. 
 The story is told from Meda's and Bernie's points of view, along with that of Bernie's Aunt Ginny, herself a victim of loss. She provides the soothing balm, though, to these two characters, helping us feel hopeful that Bernie and Meda will heal each other and themselves.

This isn't really a romantic novel, although it has some romance in it. (Not much hotness, though, so if you're looking for that, this isn't for you.) It isn't a fairytale, either, because Bryn Greenwood knows that her characters can't be fixed easily. Both of them try, both of them fail, and they keep trying. This also isn't much of a love story, because the love they have is not always shared, nor is it offered without conditions. What Last Will is, I guess, is a story of people who need each other, even if they don't realize how much. IT turns out Barbra Streisand was right: people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

Published by Bytech Services and available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

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