High school reunions can be cathartic or catastrophic – depending on expectations. In The Last Time I Saw You, Elizabeth Berg follows a group of anxious revelers at their fortieth reunion in an examination at how assumptions can skew perceptions of others’ lives.
As always, Berg is an easy read, with surprises to spice up the plot. Her characters never fall into stereotypes, but she teases you with that possibility as she starts her story with old high school gossiping and rivalries. Instead, Berg develops her story into a realistic and touching view of lives as they deal with universal problems.
The grass is always greener, and the characters are not who they seem to their classmates; all are dealing with their inner demons. Candy, the class beauty and envy of all the girls has just been diagnosed with cancer; Dorothy, another in the popular crowd, has had her self-confidence shattered in her divorce; Pete, the class heart throb and philanderer, is trying to win back his wife; Lester, a widower and veterinarian, is lonely. As they play “the game of truth,” as part of the reunion festivities, aging revelers are forced to face each other’s anxieties as well as their own, and Berg’s observations offer an inside view of how her characters cope.
A thoughtful read, with a little soap opera quality, The Last Time I Saw You, ends with everyone finding out more about themselves – maybe even the reader.