cover image The Last Love Note

The Last Love Note

Emma Grey. Zibby, $27.99 (376p) ISBN 978-1-958506-29-5

Australian writer Grey makes her U.S. debut with a clever if underwhelming story about a young widow who considers a new love. Aspiring novelist Kate Whittaker, 40, juggles her responsibilities as a single mother with her fund-raising job at a university. She attempts to handle her burdens with humor (her phone’s ringtone for her intrusive mother is the “Imperial March” from Star Wars), and receives support from her bachelor boss, Hugh, a family friend (Kate’s young son calls him “Uncle Hugh”) who has accommodated her rocky performance since her husband, Cam, died two years earlier from early-onset Alzheimer’s. She begins to develop romantic feelings for Hugh, but wonders if she can have a future with him after discovering he kept a secret from her about Cam’s wishes for Kate after his death. Grey, who writes in an author’s note about losing her husband to a heart attack at a similar age, convincingly portrays a sense of loss. After a while, however, Kate’s grief begins to feel disharmonious with the otherwise fast-paced rom-com plot, and it’s obvious from the get-go where her relationship with Hugh is headed. The writing is crisp, though, and there’s a smart metafictional element involving Kate deciding to give up her lofty literary ambitions and write what matters most to her. This has its charms. (Nov.)