Review: (Just) Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Title: (Just) Last Night
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 1, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: ☕☕☕☕ ☕ (5/5)
Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {sudden death of a loved one, abandonment, grief (explicit detail), physical abuse (recalled)}

BLURB

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.
But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.
In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…
They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?
(via Goodreads)

THOUGHTS

That night was the last night of The Past, and we had no idea.

I loved Mhairi McFarlane ever since I randomly stumbled upon If I Never Met You. Reading (Just) Last Night has been accidental as well – I went into it blind because the blurb honestly revealed nothing except there is a night that changed the friends’ lives forever. This book follows Eve as she navigates unexpected loss and her journey towards finding herself while coming to terms with her grief. Reading Last Night made me realize more just how utterly temporary everything is. I love when I read books that forcefully put things into perspective. And I love reading about stuff that makes me want to live my life to the fullest again. This is one such book.

Last Night is honestly one of the most beautiful (albeit heartbreaking) things I’ve read this 2021. This book, if anything else, has one of the most honest and affecting writing on grief: how monumental and personal a feeling it is. The theme of grief was painfully explored throughout the book. If you are someone that suffered a sudden death of a loved one, I see how this could be too hard to read most times as it really went in deep. Grief can be a universal and unique feeling at the same time – and I loved how this book explored the subject from the perspective of deep friendship: the kind of friendship that stood the test of time, the kind that is as real as any familial relationship you have. Sometimes, your friends understand you better and have been in your life longer and deeper. And the connections we consciously form can leave a deep impact and a huge loss once gone. It was heartbreaking trying to read Eve’s random realizations and self-dialogue. Those random moments when the loss creeps in and she can’t help but comprehend how much different her life would be after such an event. It’s a very interesting point of view that I feel hasn’t been explored enough and the way Mhairi McFarlane wrote it with such emotional abandon is a thing of poignant beauty.

‘It’s alright, you know,’ he says, quietly. ‘You’re allowed.’ ‘Allowed to what?’ ‘… Be alive. Carry on.’

This book also tackled things about family, abuse, toxic relationships, and self-worth. It also briefly touched on the topic of survivor’s guilt and some of the words in this book just hit me so hard it was really hard to keep myself from crying most times. This was strictly classified as “women’s fiction” but I still refuse to tag any book that. It is contemporary fiction with strong romantic themes, but I loved how much romance took a backseat in this book. One thing that I have always adored Mhairi Mcfarlane for is the way she crafts dialogues and confrontations. From both the books I’ve read from her, she usually deals with characters in their 30s, and what a treat to read the way they talk it all out and resolve stuff. I love YA but most times lately, Adult storylines really hit hard just because I’m closer to this age and mindset now. There was this specific confrontation on casual manipulation at the latter part of the book that I’m still in awe remembering even now – because I haven’t really read that kind of perspective and situation before (“It’s not deliberate, in the sense you plot. It’s instinct. The trouble with your lies, […] is you tell them so fast and so easily, you don’t see yourself constructing them. You believe them yourself.”). It was such a lightbulb moment for me because I was so lost in Eve’s POV that I haven’t really considered it’s how it is.

Life’s veered sharply away from the script. We’re travelling a branch of an alternative future we were never meant to be on.

As I said, grief is the central theme of this book. But apart from that specific topic (that automatically puts anything in my top reads, if done well), I think what really made an impact with me is the unexpected and tremendous emotional whiplash that was served to us, readers, right at the beginning. I was dragged down with Eve so it almost felt like I experienced everything with her – in painful detail. It got triggering for me in the beginning, honestly, but I managed to get through it and I was thankful I did. This is a very heavy book but I also adored how Mhairi McFarlane managed to inject humor on the side (in the most unexpected places and even inappropriate moments) to kind of balance it out (i.e., the inappropriate jokes from Justin, oh my God).

OVERALL

This is what I never knew about loss – it’s also about what you gain. You carry a weight that you never had before. It’s never behind you. It’s alongside you. ‘Forever’: people say it in wedding vows all the time like they understand what it means, but actual forever is fucking huge.

I loved, loved, loved every minute of (Just) Last night – even if I was a mess for most of it. I had high hopes for this going in (partly because of this review written by Emily Henry) but it certainly didn’t disappoint. Ultimately, I believe this is still a tale of hope and moving forward as it is a story largely rooted in grief. If you want to have a good cry (as I did), I definitely recommend this one. Please read the TWs though because it can be a lot and sometimes our minds take time to process emotions of this proportion. But still: definitely recommended!🍂

RATING

QUOTABLE QUOTES

Death is physical, perhaps it existing in a purely intellectual realm is too much to reconcile.

It’s very hard to absorb that I will be thinking and ‘what if-ing’ about last night’s events for the rest of my life. It has an instant permanence, like looking at a fresh wound and knowing the scar it leaves will always be a part of your body.

Sometimes people leave places they like. Sometimes people leave people they like.’

‘It won’t always be this way, Eve,’ Fin says, quietly. ‘Life has harder parts.’ ‘What’s going to change for me?’ Fin smiles, sadly. ‘That’s largely up to you.’

Do you ever wonder what it would be like, to drop all … this, with someone?’ Fin says, eventually. He makes a gesture up and down from his face to his shoulders and down to his waist that leaves me nonplussed. ‘The defences and the deceptions and ways we have of impressing people. To fully be yourself, with no … no fear, I guess? Of how you’re coming over. No management of the impression you’re making. Total honesty.’

‘For what it’s worth, if you could see yourself through my eyes, I don’t think you’d think you were a busted flush at this “living”, Evelyn.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Really. I see a person who has everything going for her. The only thing you lack is self-belief.

Beauty isn’t an arrangement of features, even features as perfect as Finlay Hart’s, it’s a feeling. This is how it feels in the split second you suddenly become aware that you’re falling in love with someone. The click of a jigsaw’s last piece, the rainfall of coins in a jackpot slot machine, the right song striking up and your being swept away by its opening bars. That conviction of making complete sense of the universe, in one moment. Of course. You’re where I should be. You’re here.

‘It’s like my whole life was about travelling back to you.’

I keep waiting to get past it. To ‘move on’, to absorb it, to set it aside, to make sense of it, to process it. For it to be, somehow, ‘behind’ me. What next? I keep thinking, with a pain in my stomach like it’s been slit open. And – there is no next, stupid. That’s the point. Someone has gone, forever, and you have to stop waiting for them to come back. Without realising it, you are stuck on pause, as if their not being here might change.

GET THE BOOK! >> Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound

About the Author

Mhairi was born in Scotland in 1976 and her unnecessarily confusing name is pronounced Vah-Ree.

After some efforts at journalism, she started writing novels. It’s Not Me, It’s You is her third book. She lives in Nottingham, with a man and a cat.

Author Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


Find me elsewhere: Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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