Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Posted September 21, 2015 in Review / 5 Comments

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers

by Renee Carlino
Published by Simon & Schuster, Atria on August 18th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?


I want to take this moment to thank two people.  I thank Grace at Rebel Mommy Book Blog for “making” me hunt this book down.  And I thank Renee Carlino for NOT making this huge story into two books like so many authors tend to want to do today.  I fall down at your feet, Ms. Carlino, for your recognition that this story of TWO lifetimes needs to be told in one book to get the full impact …and waterworks.

Told in two POVs, the story starts out in the present time with Matt’s current state of “life” or lack thereof.  He’s divorced, working in a cubicle at National Geographic, with his ex-wife and her new husband right down the hall. His boss/best friend (really?) continually tries to goad Matt into random hook-ups but Matt just doesn’t have the desire for that.  To say he’s floating in life is kind of an understatement.

A chance citing on a train platform sends both Matt and the reader back in time to college and a girl Matt roomed next to named Graceland, or Grace for short.  She’s the girl who got away…

Or did she?

I am so freaking glad I read this book because it totally brought me back to that time in my life when anything and everything could happen – college.  You meet the best people in the world there, it’s a veritable melting pot of souls.  I learned who I wanted to be there.  And then it was time to grow up.

Ms. Carlino accurately captured the turmoil and questions that come from maturing, moving on, letting go, and just plain ‘ole dealing.  This book spans almost 20 years so it’s not just some easy resolution.  There’s a lot of love and a lot of heartbreak here folks.

I actually asked Grace (Rebel Mommy) how the story ended.  I had to know and yes, I am that hung up on how my books end.

This book is NOT young adult, nor is it new adult.  It is adult contemporary romance, period.  I hate when people don’t know what they’re getting into.

What else can I say…  feels, feels, feels, tears, tears, OMG, loved the characters, tears, feels, smack Matt upside the head, tears.

Yep, that’s all I got.


About Renee Carlino

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women's novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.



About Kristin

Kristin has to ensure she gets her minimal requirement of "happily ever after" books in between those books that contain cliffhangers and never-ending story arcs. It's for her family's sake. When not reading, she's homeshooling her 10-year old son, watching cartoons on TV, or taking a nap.

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5 responses to “Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

  1. WOOT WOOT!!!! So glad you loved it! I would have been so mad if this was a two book type of deal. I thought it was done perfectly. I totally agree about bringing you back to college which was such a great time. And yes lots of tears! Great review!
    Grace recently posted…Review ~ Juniors