The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is about Hannah Hall, who is married to Owen, whose wife had died tragically, leaving him with their only daughter Bailey. After two years of their marriage, Owen fails to come back home from work one day. Hannah’s calls to Owen go unanswered.
Hannah discovers that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had just raided the tech shop where his husband was working. “The shop” raid is a result of fraud after falsifying about their product and deceiving investors billions of dollars. After the arrest of Owen’s boss by the FBI, Owen disappears and sends a note to Hannah which reads “Protect Her.” The note reaches Hannah through a girl paid $20 by Owen.
16-year-old Bailey was against her father getting remarried; therefore, she dislikes Hannah. On the other hand, Hannah wishes to create a strong bond between her and Bailey, and he struggles very hard to achieve it. Together, they begin to search for Owen, only to realize that Owen had been lying about his past and was not who he claimed to be.
In fact, “Owen” was also not his actual name; it’s Ethan Young. Bailey realizes that his father had lied about her childhood. Jules, Hannah’s friend, asks her if she has a bank account with her name. Hannah says yes and explains that Owen had advised her to have a separate bank account.
A United States Marshal, Grady, advises Hannah to fetch a lawyer and says he can help Owen. Bailey seems to have little information about her childhood stories. Her childhood would help them unveil crucial details about her dad. During their search and investigations, Hannah and Bailey join in solving the case of Owen’s disappearance. Instead of joining WITSEC, Hannah brokers a deal with Nicholas (Bailey’s grandfather) to keep them safe.
Love & Loyalty
Despite his mysterious disappearance and all the lies that Owen told Hannah, she is still in love with him. She does not believe that Owen was capable of such lies. “He deceived his daughter about the most central details of hers. How is that possible? It feels entirely impossible, considering the man I thought I knew. I do know him. I still believe this, despite the evidence to the contrary. And this belief in him (in us) will either show me to be a steadfast partner or a complete fool” (117). The book captures the theme of loyalty during the investigations about Owen’s disappearance and his connection with his tech shop fraud. Hannah discovers that Owen had been lying to her throughout their life together. She finds that Owen’s actual name was Ethan and not “Owen.” However, despite all the lies, she remains loyal to her husband.
She continues to protect Bailey, her stepdaughter. In his note, Owen had told Hannah to watch Bailey. “I unfold the paper. Owen’s note is short. One line, its own puzzle. Protect her” (11). While reading the story, most readers would expect Hannah to refrain from protecting Bailey when she discovers her husband’s lies. Hannah does the opposite and continues watching her stepdaughter as if she was her daughter. Many readers might judge Hannan’s tendency to remain loyal as being taken for a fool. However, it reveals a significant theme of the story that true love is not dependent on an individual’s past life; it depends on an individual’s moral character.
On the other hand, the author presents Carl Conrad, Owen’s close friend. Unlike Owen and Hannah, Carl’s relationship with Patricia was not based on true love because Carl cheated on his wife on regular occasions. Something which made Hannah dislike him. “He’s funny and smart and totally embraced me from the minute I arrived in Sausalito. But he also habitually cheats on his wife, Patricia, and I don’t like knowing that” (49).
Family love is a theme word consideration: Notably, due to family love, Owen chose to disappear to keep his family safe. Again, he changed his identity to protect Hannah and Bailey from his dark past. Moreover, as a result of love for his daughter, Nicholas allowed Kate to marry Owen (Ethan) as long as the marriage kept her happy, “As my wife used to say, we don’t get to pick who our children love. I made my peace that she chose Ethan. I just wanted her to be happy” (223). Despite the rejection that Hannah faced from Bailey, she kept her close and wanted her best. At last, the two were united, and Bailey introduced Hannah as “mom” to her new boyfriend, Shep.
Owen had assisted Nicholas in establishing an encryption system that he used to send messages from lieutenants in prison to management outside the prison walls. Notably, these messages were not innocent because they involved directions on people to be punished and killed. Following the murder of Katherine, Owen blamed Nicholas, saying that it was his fault that Kate died. Even after Nicholas explained to him that his men could not kill his own daughter, Owen could not understand. Therefore, in thirst for revenge, Owen hacked the system and forwarded all the secret emails and correspondence to authorities. For that reason, Nicholas went to jail for over six years. According to Grady, one day, Nicholas would enact revenge against Owen. “After Kate’s assassination, Owen hacked into the system and turned everything over to us….You don’t betray Nicholas Bell like that and come back from it” (190).
The theme of power is also popular in “The Last Thing He Told Me.” While searching for the truth, Hannah seeks the help of many different people with different levels of power. Hannah had to strike a deal with Nicholas Bell, Bailey’s grandfather, for protection. Notably, Nicholas had the power to protect both Hannah and Bailey from the authorities and criminal groups after Owen. Nicholas talks of a Texas Supreme Court Judge, Kate’s boss, in his conversation with Hannah. According to Nicholas, the power bestowed to the judge was great to cast a vote that would result in sweeping reform. The reform would cost a large energy corporation approximately six billion dollars. “My point is that this judge, Kate’s boss, was writing a majority opinion against the corporation. It would lead to sweeping reform and cost the energy corporation close to six billion dollars in improved conservation efforts” (221).
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. Hardcover, 320 pages. Published May 4th 2021 by Simon & Schuster.