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Last Seen Leavingby Kelly Braffet
Synopses & Reviews
Twenty-something drifter Miranda crashes her car late at night on a lonely highway and is picked up by a passing stranger who soon reveals himself to be more sinister than at first glance. No one knows Miranda is missing: her father died in a plane crash over Central America and her estranged mother, Anne, sought comfort in a New Age lifestyle in the Arizona desert.
When Anne reaches out to her daughter, no one has heard from Miranda for two months. All signs seem to point to Mirandas death, but she's actually living under an assumed name in a Virginia beach town and may not want to be found. Maybe George, her highway rescuer, means nothing by his unexpected appearances and is unconnected to rumors of a serial killer stalking young women. Maybe her mother will find her in time. Maybe not.
An edgy and engrossing page-turner, Last Seen Leaving explores the often ambiguous nature of danger and the dark secrets we keep in order to protect those we love.
"Two women in crisis learn important lessons about 'life and death and the nature of love' in Braffet's brilliant second novel (after 2005's Jack and Josie). Anne Cassidy, a 48-year-old New Age devotee living in Sedona, Ariz., knows something major has gone wrong when her daughter, Miranda, a college dropout and aimless drifter currently in Pittsburgh, Pa., doesn't answer her calls and Randa's phone is later disconnected. After two months, Anne must face a mother's worst fear — that her daughter has vanished. Meanwhile, Randa has crashed her car and left it to start a new life after accepting a ride from 'George,' an odd stranger who's either a serial killer or a covert CIA operative. George drops her off in Lawrence Beach, Va., where she takes a chambermaid job at a cheap motel. At the end of the tourist season, Randa's reduced to living in a friend's van while female bodies continue to surface in the seaside community. In Pittsburgh, Anne hunts for clues to her daughter's disappearance and revisits the equally disturbing disappearance of Nick, her pilot husband, in 1984. Fluid prose, vivid characters and suspenseful twists lead to a hopeful denouement. Author tour. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"'Last Seen Leaving' begins and ends with car wrecks, but that violent coincidence is just one of several false leads in Kelly Braffet's muted thriller. At its opening, a young woman named Miranda is sitting next to her crumbled Nova somewhere in Pittsburgh after a bad night of drinking and sex. A middle-aged man in a silver Mercedes stops to offer a ride. 'I can take you all the way home if you'd... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) like,' he says. 'The company is nice. I spend a lot of time alone.' They talk awkwardly. He likes her hair. He implies that he works for the CIA. Then Miranda notices, 'That was the exit. You just missed it.' 'Did I?' Her friends never see her again. Let's review, kids: Don't get in a stranger's car. Miranda's ominous encounter is so soaked with noir tones that her creepy driver even says, 'You sound like someone in a crime novel.' But the surprises in this novel always involve what doesn't happen: That night Miranda isn't killed. Or robbed. Or even touched. Instead, her good Samaritan drops her off in Lawrence Beach, Va., with $100 and some advice about how to start over with a new name. For a disaffected young woman who wants no commitments, no address, no questions, the situation is just right: good weather and an easy job cleaning rooms. The only downside is a local serial killer who's murdering cute co-eds, dyeing their hair and dumping them in the water. But this isn't a beach slasher, either. Braffet's just toying with these cliches — and us. Her previous novel, 'Josie and Jack,' was a raging tale about a sister and brother on the run from their psychotic father. Now, she's after something more subtle — possibly too subtle. Most of the story follows Miranda's mother, Anne, as she tries to find her estranged daughter. They haven't been close for years. Miranda always insisted on her right to remain silent. She scorned her mother's interest in meditation and healing crystals, but, disappointingly, the novel's emphasis on her New Age spirituality never develops. By the time Anne tracks down her daughter's last address in Pittsburgh, Miranda's apartment has been abandoned for months. A nightmare for any parent, this is a repeat performance for Anne, whose husband vanished more than 20 years ago after a mysterious accident while working as a pilot for the CIA. (Suspect a connection with that earlier CIA reference? Don't get your hopes up.) She begins frantically trying to retrace what she thinks were her daughter's last days alive, all the while haunted by the trauma of her husband's unsolved disappearance. If we weren't also following Miranda's shiftless life in Lawrence Beach, Anne's panicked search for her body in Pittsburgh might generate more suspense. But we know all along how misdirected this is, and Braffet's ultra-cool style gives us little else to munch on. Even that serial killer lurking in the background inspires only nagging anxiety, like Lyme disease or a tax audit. Instead, we're left watching the skewed paths of a mother and daughter mired in bitterness and sorrow over a man who died decades ago. The weight of their static grief smothers any tension here, making the novel pay for its exploration of character with its life. Ron Charles is a senior editor of the Washington Post Book World." Reviewed by Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"A suspenseful, emotionally resonant story about a mother and her daughter caught in the mystery of her husband's disappearance....A keen, heartfelt thrill." Kirkus Reviews
"Her skillful portrayal of unresolved grief and shattered relationships lends sensitivity to this solidly crafted and compelling sophomore effort." Library Journal
"[A] story about the fragility of relationships as well as the secrets we keep and the lies we tell ourselves to get us through the pain of love and loss." Booklist
"Last Seen Leaving doesn't reach [the] depth or complexity [of Josie and Jack]. It's more like an episode of CSI or Without a Trace — fast-paced and enjoyable, but not particularly artful or enduring." USA Today
"[A] literary thriller that deepens rather than solves the most elusive mystery of all: the mystery of human nature....Braffet uses the plotting techniques of genre fiction to explore the difficulty of knowing the people who are closest to us." San Francisco Chronicle
"Kelly Braffet convincingly depicts prickly Miranda's escape from her past....But Last Seen Leaving, this compelling tale of mother-daughter estrangement, nearly gets lost in a thrillerish overcoat bursting with CIA operatives and serial killers." Entertainment Weekly
Last Seen Leaving delivers delicious suspense, meticulous plotting, and keen eye for character in a story about a mother in search of her daughter, and a daughter in search of herself.
As she did in her darkly thrilling debut, Josie and Jack, Kelly Braffet again explores the often ambiguous nature of love and danger in a riveting novel of suspense. When twenty-something drifter Miranda Cassidy wrecks her car one night on the way home from a bar, she seizes the accident as an opportunity to reinvent her life. Hitching a ride with a mysterious stranger, she finds quick work and a fresh start hundreds of miles away in an oceanside vacation town. She doesn't look back, figuring no one is going to miss her. But when her mother finds no forwarding address, she senses something terrible has happened. The memory of the tragic disappearance of Miranda's father years before and the force of long-buried emotions drive her on a frantic quest to find her daughter, no matter what the cost.
As she did in her darkly thrilling debut, Josie and Jack, Kelly Braffet again explores the often ambiguous nature of love and danger in a riveting novel of suspense. When twenty-something drifter Miranda Cassidy wrecks her car one night on the way home from a bar, she seizes the accident as an opportunity to reinvent her life. Hitching a ride with a mysterious stranger, she finds quick work and a fresh start hundreds of miles away in an oceanside vacation town. She doesnt look back, figuring no one is going to miss her. But when her mother finds no forwarding address, she senses something terrible has happened. The memory of the tragic disappearance of Mirandas father years before and the force of long-buried emotions drive her on a frantic quest to find her daughter, no matter what the cost.
About the Author
Kelly Braffet's first novel, Josie and Jack, was published in 2005. It was praised as "wicked fun...a gothic tour of hell" (Los Angeles Times) and "a compelling study of love, hate, and psychopathic jealousy" (New York Post). Braffet was born in Long Beach, California, in 1976, and has lived in Arizona, rural Pennsylvania and Oxford, England. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, and has taught novel writing at the Sackett Street Writing Workshop. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her fiancee, the tall and embarrassingly talented writer Owen King. They have three cats.
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