“And still there were people like Evelyn, my grandmother’s neighbor, hiring me for odd jobs, trying to make sure I got by. All it did was bring me closer to more of the things I didn’t have.
That was the problem with a place like this: everything was right out in the open, including the life you could never have.”
Avery Greer’s young life has been marked by tragedy; her parents died in a horrific car accident, leaving her to live with her grandmother, who was also injured in the crash. Not too long afterward, Avery’s grandmother passes, leaving Avery to build a life for herself with no help or relatives to support her.
Avery makes a life for herself in a Littleport, Maine, a beach town known for its contrasts. Windy, rainy winters give way to sunfilled, blue-skied summer. The wealthy 1% of the town’s residents own towering mansions that defy gravity by dangling off of the cliffsides, nearly tumbling into the seaside below; the rest of the residents, the 99%, labor and toil to maintain and keep up Littleport’s picturesque facade, properties, and beachscapes, hoping to sustain the summer tourism industry to make ends (barely) meet.
Avery falls into the latter group; nearly destitute, she sells her grandmother’s house – all that was left of her inheritance – to the Loman family, the wealthiest people in Littleport who control nearly every beautiful property in town. Soon, she finds herself working for the Loman family, cleaning their properties and managing them as they rent them out to summer vacationers. She proves her worth to the Lomans, eventually becoming a full-time property manager.
In the process, Sadie Loman, the Lomans’ daughter, befriends Avery unexpectedly. Sadie takes her in as though Avery is a wounded bird in need of care; Sadie gifts Avery expensive clothing beyond Avery’s paygrade and offers to share an apartment with Avery. Avery and Sadie develop a tight-knit, seemingly unbreakable friendship; they are inseparable 24/7. Avery feels as though she is becoming a Loman, or maybe even becoming a clone of Sadie. She doesn’t protest, as it is a way of escaping her past. As Miranda writes,
“I believe that a person can become possessed by someone else – at least in part. That one life can slip inside another, giving it shape. In this way, I could judge Sadie’s reaction before it occurred, picture an expression in the second before she shared it.”
This illusion of safety and shelter that Sadie’s friendship provides is shattered when Sadie is murdered, her body found lapping against the rocks of Littleton’s shoreline.
Avery immediately becomes a suspect because of her proximity to Sadie.
Did Avery become jealous with Sadie started developing a new friendship with her brother, Parker’s girlfriend, Luce? Did Avery discover that Sadie was having a relationship with Avery’s former lover, Connor?
Amid the town’s speculation and gossiping about Avery, she discovers that she was never really a Loman (as much as she tried to become one, much to the discontent of the town’s residents):
“How you could get pulled into the orbit of one world, thinking you had a place in it, even if you weren’t fully part of it.”
Avery races against time to solve the murder of Sadie in order to absolve herself of Sadie’s murder and find out the truth about what happened to her. Digging into Sadie and the Lomans’ past may uncover some unsavory and even shocking truths about the town of Littleton and the lengths to which its residents will go to hide its scandals, crimes, and misdeeds.
This was my second book by Miranda, and I think it’s safe to say that after this book I’ve become a really big fan. I did not see the ending coming at all – I really loved how it came together nicely and made complete sense. Miranda dropped a lot of hints along the way – I just missed them! I also liked the themes that this book explored – youthful friendships and the tensions that arise within them; class inequality; the longing to be someone else, or have someone else’s life (that seems perfect from the outside…but you know what they say about the grass); and loss and grief. Miranda tackled these topics with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and care reflective of a gifted writer.
You can read my 5/5 star review of Miranda’s last book, The Perfect Stranger, here. Thank you so very much to the author, Megan Miranda, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Last House Guest! I can’t wait to read Miranda’s next hit 🙂