News & Reviews
‘Last Night in Montreal’ marks new voice in literature
Review by BPM Smith
UNBRIDLED BOOKS; 256 PAGES; $24.95
Everyone loves a good road novel. It need not pass from
Francophile streets of Montreal to Arizona’s dust-laden motels, and it
doesn’t even need be a linear journey. Just bring us on a trip and let
the characters transpose readers into your fictional world. Emily St. John
(pictured left) does that in her debut novel "Last Night in Montreal"
and left me anticipating what’s next from this promising young talent.
protagonist Lilia Albert is like many young people today: Restless,
searching, reluctant to commit. But her story’s quite different.
Abducted by her estranged father at a young age, she grew up in beat
down motels eating take-out pizza, always one step ahead of authorities
wanting to return her to her mother in Canada’s most European city.
Memories from various points of view come in brief clips that suggest
the disconnected lives of several interesting characters in Last Night.
We follow Lilia’s brother Simon, haunted by her disappearance but
wanting her to stay away in a chapter as short as three sentences.
Christopher, a detective whose own family is in shambles, hired to
reunite Lilia with her mother. The romantic Eli who searches for an
adult Lilia in the streets of Montreal. Michaela, who as a child threw
coffee mugs at television screens when annoying ads popped on.
Then there’s Lilia. Her childhood gone, she’s gotten a habit of
disappearing from cities and lovers -- just as she morphed into the
backseat of a car driven by a father who wanted to get away, far away.
St. John Mandel tells the story of Lilia and these interconnected
characters in crisp, efficient prose that transitions point-of-view so
smoothly it’s like riding a ‘74 Cadillac Coup de Ville down an open
Every once in awhile a young novelist makes a debut that’s so
startlingly good we finish it and then wonder is this the first warning
shot of a promising new voice? Or is this a one-and-out? Emily St. John
Mandel opens Last Night with a cryptic line: "No one stays forever." I
hope she sticks around long enough for us to see what’s next.
Scale: 5 stars: Incredible!... 4 stars:
Excellent... 3 stars: Good... 2 stars: Mediocre... 1 star: Lame!
Rating: 5 stars
For more information about Unbridled Books and its authors check out
is a full-time journalist who is covering the economic Apocalypse by
day and slowly putting the final touches on his latest novel "Bistro de
Mars" by night -- at the expense of winning the 2009 World Series of
Poker. He lives in Oakland, Calif., with a sphinx named Zoey.
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