The Last Romantics

Morrow. Feb. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9780062358202. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062358226. F
Conklin's sophomore effort (following The House Girl) recounts the complex but loving relationships of four siblings whose lives are irrevocably changed after their father dies unexpectedly when they're children, ranging in age from four to 11. Their mother sinks into depression and leaves them to fend for themselves for three years. Elder sister Renee shoulders the majority of the burden and takes this sense of responsibility into a career as a surgeon. Caroline seeks traditional marriage and motherhood at the expense of personal fulfillment, until later in life. Joe, the beloved only brother, becomes the focus of attention and promise for the whole family; his demons are ignored or dismissed until too late. Fiona, the youngest, eventually a celebrated poet, serves as the omniscient narrator. Another family tragedy leads them all to reexamine their lives and their relationships and the impact their early loss had on them. A somewhat implausible framing device, set in the year 2079, serves little purpose, except perhaps to explain the occasional anachronisms and time line inconsistencies that could have been caught by more careful editing.
VERDICT Structural problems aside, the examination of trauma and its impact on family relationships is believably rendered. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18.]
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