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Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

(Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

This is a love story of sorts. But not in the way you might expect.

Rory Buchanan is a popular guy. He’s a loving husband and father, a great friend, and captain of the local cricket team. But when his luck runs out, Rory’s group of friends and family are left to cope with the hole in their lives that he leaves behind.

The aftermath of Rory’s death is told from the alternating points of view of the nine people closest to him.

As their lives unravel, each of them deals with the loss in their own way – including the sister who can’t replace her brother, the wife who loses her true love and father of her children, and the childhood friend who can’t find a way forward without his oldest mate.

The author is an insightful, natural storyteller who doesn’t exaggerate her characters, lump them into tacky stereotypes or interfere with the narrative – she just lets them live on the page.

However, the cricket matches Kylie often describes sometimes move as slowly as the sport itself. Perhaps the most disconcerting effect of the story is that the reader is also forced to consider the mortality of people close to them. It asks, are you happy with the life you’ve made for yourself? Are you making the most of every moment? or are you wasting precious time?

Although Last Summer confronts death as a part of life, the novel isn’t really about dying – it’s more a love story. It’s not about loving someone enough that it breaks your heart to let them go – it’s about the privilege of having them so much a part of your life that they could cause that much grief in the first place.

While it may not have a happy-ever-after ending,

Last Summer is a realistic and easy-to-read page-turner that will force you to assess what really matters.

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