cover image The Last Time I Was Me

The Last Time I Was Me

Cathy Lamb, . . Kensington, $15 (409pp) ISBN 978-0-7582-1463-8

The author of Julia’s Chocolates delivers a sometimes fun tale of revenge and rebirth that begins when narrator Jeanne Stewart discovers her longtime live-in boyfriend has been cheating on her. She exacts a creative revenge involving condoms and peanut oil (her boyfriend is allergic), resulting in “Slick Dick” suing her. His betrayal, following the death of her mother and weeks of working excessive hours, results in an embarrassing public nervous breakdown. Jeanne sells everything and lands in a small Oregon town, where, amid an eccentric cast, she enrolls in a court-ordered anger-management class and attempts to rebuild her life. Her initial recovery breakthrough occurs when she falls while running naked (this, strangely, is part of the program) along the river and a nice man helps her. When her brother urges Jeanne to work on a political campaign for Oregon’s governor, Jeanne discovers the candidate is her river rescuer. Other irons in the fire include Jeanne’s efforts to renovate a derelict house and her ex’s looming lawsuit. Though initially charming, the book has a tendency to overload the narrative with sass and excessive wordplay, which slows the plot and keeps the reader at an uncomfortable distance. (May)