The Last Post
The Last Post wants to be a romantic story about two broken people who heal together. Unfortunately, it ends up being a story about a stalker and a woman who desperately needs grief counseling.
Doctor Laya Marston once had a true love; her daredevil, risk-loving husband, Cameron Bennett. Cameron is a stuntman and a professional extreme sportsman, and during a vacation to France – sponsored by Red Bull – he is scheduled to be filmed skiing partway down the side of Mont Blanc, and then float down to the ground in his wingsuit for a commercial. But Cameron miscalculates and skis off the edge of the mountain and into the ravine below, leaving Laya a widow at twenty-nine. Understandably, she can’t let go, even as she moves to New York to complete her fellowship in orthopedic surgery. She convinces herself that Cameron will somehow return to her and disappears into a haze of filth and alcohol, and begins posting messages to his Facebook wall as if he were still alive, reminiscing about their old trips and plotting new adventures for them both to take on. This traumatizes her family and his and makes her a public spectacle, but she can’t seem to stop.
Architect Micah works for Laya’s father’s company and is the firm’s golden boy yet has his designs frequently stolen and is sexually harassed by his supervisor. In spite of having a supportive family and cluster of friends, he feels stifled by life in New York and has no direction or purpose in his life. He gets caught in a depressive cycle after being unable to make a move on Laya at a party, and when he’s shown her Facebook he decides it’s his mission to draw Laya out of her spiral of grief. He begins following her and leaving behind supportive notes and gifts at her doorstep, tracing Cameron and Laya’s romance by going to the places she mentions in the posts and trying to recreate those big moments for Laya.
Laya is angry and suspicious of Micah at first, but her father throws them together. So does fate, as Laya uses Micah sexually and emotionally to try to forget Cameron. Caught between wanting to remember Cameron and needing to be with Micah, what will Laya do? What will she do when she finds out her stalker and her new friend are one in the same?
The Last Post reaches for glossy and soapy and instead falls apart in a mess of unpleasant clichés and character behavior. While its portrait of grief and grieving is sharp, it makes unforgivable choices with its characters and situations that will leave readers groaning.
Laya is an incredibly hard character to bond with. She is so angry for most of the book, so willing to lash out at others without apology, that it was hard to see her as a full person – a surgeon, daughter and even as a pet owner. She never graduates far from anger or sadness. Her existence is clichéd as her reasons for being a surgeon, and of course she has prophetic dreams about her late husband as she tries to let him go.
Even though her insistence on ‘grieving her own way’ is understandable, most of the characters don’t call Laya on any of her rash actions and let her get away with being rude, thoughtless and nasty to every single person in her life. She is whiny and jealous that she couldn’t make Cameron feel as ‘alive’ as the stunts he pulled could, and when her grief lifts (very, very late in the book) she never bothers to properly apologize to his mother, sister or father, all of whom she’s dragged through hell throughout the book.
Micah, meanwhile, is somehow a cringing doormat and a pathetic psychopath at the same time. To him, Laya is the ultimate manic pixie dream girl, and aside from his interest in architecture, he has no personality beyond being a cringing wimp until, when she’s in the middle of some particularly severe temper tantrum, he reaches his limit and responds with anger – and she becomes meeker and smaller, which is no healthier. That he is stalking her and trying to cheer her up by recreating moments that she experienced with her dead husband is beyond creepy and renders their romance dead in the water.
On top of feeling like a nonstarter and Micah feeling like second best for Laya, their relationship also feels fairly rushed. The action in the book takes place six months after Cameron’s death, and it takes Laya and Micah all of two years to get where they are by the conclusion. All the choices they make feel like they’re being made out of naked desperation and there is little discussion of either Micah getting counseling for his depression or Laya getting counseling for her anger issues and extreme grief. True love heals them instead.
Every single secondary character is a cliché but some of them are fun clichés like Micah’s hot mess twin sister Melissa, who was so lively and funny I wished the book was about her; she’s the only reason I didn’t give the novel a flat-out F. Oh, and also of course, there is a cute tiny mutt of a dog who brings our characters closer together and a big medical crisis to make the heroine realize what she has before her, and that not every accident will end in the death of a loved one.
The Last Post might have been so much more enriching and thought-provoking than it is. Sadly it never raises from the mire it’s buried in.