While it’s always a pleasure to read works by local authors, my job is even more fun when I get to review a new novel by a good friend. This month’s review is extra-special because the book in question is The Last Last Fight by the Advocate’s very own Associate Editor, Sally K Lehman. Lehman has done such great work for us here at The Advocate that when I heard she was finishing her novel I simply couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
The Last Last Fight is the story of Samantha (Sam) Hollander, the oldest of four children, forced into caring for her whole family by her parent’s addictions, fights, and secrets. It’s a story many of us who grew up in small towns know all too well. The family from the wrong side of the tracks, where you know something is wrong, but no one feels like they can do anything about it. Not only is Sam facing the harsh realities of abuse, mental illness, and adult responsibility, but she also is best friends with the town’s only Black girl, so you can also add dealing with rampant racism to the list.
What I Liked:
This book is unabashedly itself, and it makes no apologies. It’s written from a place of strength and vulnerability that is unparalleled in much of today’s literature. Lehman approaches subjects that most authors tend to avoid or only hint at, and she does so with complete transparency. While I read, I was shocked, comforted, appalled, and touched, experiencing each emotion alongside the characters.
I appreciated the way that Lehman did not shy away from the hard things. Growing up in a small town, while I was privileged to live in a loving and successful family, I experienced similar stories through the lives of my friends. I knew people with abusive parents who lived under heart-wrenching circumstances. I was grateful to Lehman for not tying her story up in a perfect little bow, but allowing the characters space to live out the all-to-often true ending to these types of situations.
What Was Missing:
The hardest parts for me in this book were arguably the greatest parts of the story. This book is incredibly detailed and descriptive, using language that allows the reader to feel like they are part of the story, a fly on the wall, so to speak. As a highly observant person, some of the scenes in this book were almost too gruesome for me, although they are moments that bring into full focus the challenges of living in an abusive home. I won’t say that there was anything missing, because as I said, these are essential parts of the story, but they could be incredibly triggering for someone who has lived through this type of trauma.
There is also difficult language and content in this book, regarding race and racism. While these too are imperative to the story line, they could be found offensive, and this should be considered before reading. Lehman does include a note addressing these themes at the beginning of the book.
I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy experiencing raw truth and vulnerability. It’s a story that will challenge its reader, and will push them to the edges of their comfort zones, possibly beyond. I also highly suggest this book to people like me, who grew up in a small town, and will appreciate the sincerity with which Lehman approaches the struggles we either experienced, or saw, daily. It will be remaining on my shelf as a permanent part of my collection.
About the Author:
Sally Lehman lives in the Portland, OR area and has an MFA from Wilkes University. She has several other publications and was an editor of three anthologies about war and death. She currently is an Associate Editor for The Corvallis Advocate.
The Last Last Fight was published in 2021 by Black Bomb Books. You can find it on Amazon, at BlackBombBooks.com, or ask your local bookseller to stock it.