Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's The Last Word

The Last Word (The Spellman Files Book 6) by Lisa Lutz
ARC Provided by the publisher
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: July 9th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Izzy thought that sweeping in and wresting control of her family's company would bring a new sense of purpose to her life and more control over her wayward parents. She just wanted a little respect. Instead everything is a thousand times worse. Her parents are acting out, spending more time thinking of ways to infuriate their new boss, aka their daughter, then actually investigating cases for their clients. Rae has suspiciously asked to return to work for the business, despite having sworn it off entirely in the past. Izzy's one reliable worker, D, is stressed out and up to something. And then Izzy is accused of embezzling money from her top client Mr. Slayter. How could she embezzle the money? She doesn't even know how to balance her company's accounts let alone do something so nefarious on such a large scale. Everything is in jeopardy, the business, their sanity, and quite possibly even their lives. It's just another day for the Spellmans.

If you follow a series long enough you hope that each installment will be better then the previous. Building on the characters and their foibles as the author's writing gains strength and assurance. I feel a personal connection to this series as I've been a reader since the beginning, even sending away for a signed book plate from Lutz's website prior to finally meeting her in 2009. As Lutz's writing has matured she has also become more assured at her author signings. From the sleep deprived writer asking high schoolers what their handout they were filling out for their class was back in 2010 at Boswell books to the witty and well dressed author describing how she would defend her home from burglars, even dealing with a brain hemorrhage to hilarious effect, at the event in Madison for this most recent book, see has matured along with her writing. And while I anticipate her newest non-Spellman novel, having previously enjoyed Heads You Lose, it's the Spellmans that will always hold my heart.

While this is actually not the final volume as many previously thought, the book's title did lend an ominous finality to the series, there does come a time when a series should end. We, as readers, don't want the Spellmans to overstay their welcome. We want them to end on a strong note and not degenerate into a shadow of themselves. Each book has evolved their story and their relationships and there comes a time when a happy medium will be reached and the end will be nigh. The Last Word handles the "big topics" more then previous volumes. Death, loyalty, and acceptance being high on the list. This is one of the many reasons I thought this might be "the end." And yes, I was sad, because I did think this was surely the end and I wasn't quite ready, but then I had a Rae (ha ha) of hope. If the next book goes with Rae and gives us another viewpoint it will enliven the series, but I still have to brace myself for a time when their stories will end. But I will hopefully be better prepared then I was for this ersatz ending.

The biggest topic the book handles is Albert's Cancer. This is the impetus to bring the waring family back together. To me it felt a little trite. Yes, your family, if they love each other, will certainly rally around in times of a health crisis, but it felt like Lutz had forced her characters so far apart that something cataclysmic was the only way to bring them back together. So, while Albert and his health have always been a source of comedy and concern throughout the series, using his health to effect a reunion just seemed too pat. Yes I was momentarily concerned Lutz would kill him, again thinking this was the last book, but the truth comes down to I don't like Cancer being used for reconciliation. Perhaps it's just having been raised in a house with my mother battling Cancer twice before I was even in Junior High, but to use the disease in this way and then not really handle the illness in more detail, well, just too trite.

Oddly enough the most painful part of the book for me was Henry, Izzy's on-again off-again boyfriend. I love Henry. I love Izzy. I love the idea of Henry and Izzy. But in reality they never quite worked and I was unwilling to truly let them go their separate ways. I felt like they belonged together in the true love that never dies way. Of course the happily ever after I wished for them was completely unrealistic given their personalities and their life goals. I give Lutz big props for being willing to break them up and keep them broken up. The ending she chose with Henry finally finding happiness, it was realistic. To have Izzy and Henry walk off into the sunset, that would have been just too trite, and we've already had one incidence of that in this book, so here's to something new and different. I just hope that they can remain friends because I love Henry too much to see him never grace the pages of a Spellman book again.

To me, while Izzy's growth is a barometer of how things have changed over time in the books, I look more to Rae. Rae started out wild and out of control and she has now found a maturity that I didn't think would ever be possible. I am actually quite sad about losing the old Rae. Rae, to me, was the most fully formed character I have ever read. At times I expected her to quite literally walk out of the book, sit down next to me and hustle me for money or candy or both. But she is no longer wild and out of control. She is reasonable, sensible, and actually helpful. I'm glad she's grown up, but it has made me wistful. Yes, her parent's behaviour did help bring back some of the feeling of the old Rae... but her maturity makes me realize that when the time comes I will be able to let go of this series. It will be a sad parting, but I am hopefully prepared.


Newer Post Older Post Home