The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is quite a ride. When picking it for her book club, Reese Witherspoon called it a book with “…mysterious identities, unreliable friendships, dubious loyalties and terrifying chase sequences”. It’s all that, but we also liked it for the complicated family dynamic, the high-tech hijinks and the duffel full of cash.
Picking at of those threads will guarantee you a great book club discussion for The Last Thing He Told Me. Per our normal format, start with the book’s synopsis. Does it jive with your experience of the novel? Then move on to our 10 The Last Thing He Told Me book club questions and get some discussion fodder from the selected reviews.
And if you like this family thriller genre, then we also offer 3 books like The Last Thing He Told Me for your TBR pile.
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The Last Thing He Told Me Synopsis
The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
The Last Thing He Told Me Book Club Questions
- In an author interview Dave says that she “…realized Hannah’s story, in the most primal sense, was the story of becoming a mother. Hannah’s journey to motherhood, like that of so many women, takes an unconventional path.” Indeed her relationship with Bailey evolves from that of a step-mother who is trying too hard to fierce mom. Has anyone in your group had a similar unconventional Mom experience? Have you ever been put in a position to be guardian for a teenager?
- The novel makes much of what results from the choices you make (and whether you really have a choice at all). Owen made a series of choices that drive the narrative, from his decision to turn witness on his father-in-law, the decision not to join WITSEC, working for The Shop, and of course his disappearance. How were each of those choices critical to the narrative of the book?
- Right from the start, you know that Owen is missing. Did you make your own early assumptions about why he left and where he went? Did you assume witness protection, running from the law or something else?
- The prime directive from Owen is for Hanna to “protect her”. What do you think that he meant by that? And do you believe that Hannah’s ultimate choice fulfills Owen’s wish?
- Hannah is a wood turner, not a private detective. And yet throughout the book, she doggedly chases down (and finds!) clues. What is it about her personality, or her skill as an artist and wood-worker that made her well-suited for this quest?
- The book’s flashbacks serve to illustrate Hannah’s memories, offering clues into her life with Owen (and his life before her). What did you think of the flashback as a plot devise. Did it work for you? And if not, would there have been another way that the author could have set bread crumbs for Hannah and Bailey’s journey?
- “This is the terrible thing about a tragedy. It isn’t with you every minute. You forget it, and then you remember it again.” Yes, this book is a psychological thriller. But is it also a Shakespearean tragedy?
- Making a deal with Nick (and through him the organized crime syndicate) was a very risky move. Why did Hannah do it? Do you think that she had other options?
- Any thriller lives or dies by the pacing. It has to move fast enough to keep you turning the pages, but not so fast that you are left with a confused pile-up of clues. How did the pacing work for you?
- Your husband disappears, leaving a duffel of cash in your step-daughter’s school locker. You know that eventually your house will be searched and you don’t want the bundle confiscated. Where do you hide it?
The Last Thing He Told Me Selected Reviews
“I loved that Hannah was smart and intelligent with good instincts not only in her search for Owen, and making her final decision, but in dealing with a difficult teenager and navigating the stepmother/stepdaughter relationship.”
“It was slightly addictive in the beginning, but became pretty far-fetched pretty quickly and I wasn’t buying into the “predicament” this family got wrapped up in. Their actions didn’t seem reasonable or realistic.”
“I couldn’t put this down!! This is how you write a domestic thriller novel! There’s nothing unnecessary, it’s not overlong, the chapters are short, crisp and to the point but the author skilfully creates a real feeling of authenticity.”
“Such decent writing. Such a dull, long winded plot. Such an unsatisfying ending for me. This one got me down.”
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3 Books Like The Last Thing He Told Me
Reese also recommend The Guest List, featuring a doomed wedding set on a moody, murdery Irish island. And also The Silent Patient, about a woman who murdered her husband but she refuses to talk about it.
Something in the Water, Catherine Steadman
If you want more of the loving couple with a duffel bag full of cash, then check out Something in the Water.
Steadman’s thriller follows Erin and Mark on their honeymoon. They are having some financial difficulties, but since the trip was already paid for, they decide to go. While scuba diving, they find “something in the water” and they seize upon it as an answer to their problems.
The book starts with a bang and then does a slow simmer as the characters each make a series of small decisions that add up to large consequences.
The Golden Cage, Camilla Lackberg
If you liked how The Last Thing He Told Me hinged upon marital secrets and deception, then take a look at The Golden Cage.
Faye has worked hard to build a cozy world for she and her husband. She gave up her business dreams in order to support his fledgling business. Once that business became successful however, Faye’s marriage frays and she suffers from his abuse. And while it’s certain that her husband is a cheat, liar and abuser, Faye is no sweetheart either.
Once the divorce is pending, Faye will stop at nothing (and I do mean nothing), to extract an ice cold revenge. This book is pitch dark, just like the cold winter nights in Lackberg’s home country of Sweden.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou
If you are interesting in exploring more corporate malfeasance and dodgy Silicon Valley shenanigans, then check out Bad Blood.
This book follows the real-life slow motion combustion of startup Theranos. Founder Elizabeth Holmes had Wall Street, the FDA and the news media convinced that her company had developed a revolutionary (and inexpensive) new way to do blood testing. Holmes was maniacally focused on the legacy of her breakthrough. Which was great, except for the part where the equipment never worked. Carreyrou covers the scam and the resulting fallout in the investment community.
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