The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: Holding On

I received a complimentary copy of “The Last Winter of Dani Lancing” through my relationship with From Left to Write. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is about a college student, Dani, who was murdered twenty years ago but her killer was never found. Now a promising new lead may change everything.

Thrust into an intense devastation that nearly destroys their marriage, Patty and Jim Lancing struggle to deal with their harrowing loss. Patty is fanatically obsessed with the cold case; consumed by every possible clue or suspect no matter how far-fetched, she goes to horrifying lengths to help clarify the past. Meanwhile, Jim has become a shell of his former self, broken down and haunted—sometimes literally—by his young daughter’s death. Dani’s childhood sweetheart, Tom, handles his own grief every day on the job—he’s become a detective intent on solving murders of other young women, and hopes to one day close Dani’s case himself.

Then everything changes when Tom finds a promising new lead. As lies and secrets are unearthed, the heartbreaking truth behind Dani’s murder is finally revealed.

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At first I found this book confusing, there were many voices telling the story; Jim, Patty, Tom and Dani. I think the confusing part was when Dani’s character was talked to as a ghost. It took me a few chapters to get the hang of it, but as soon as I did, I didn’t put the book down. I literally read the majority of the book in 3 days.

I used to be a huge fan of psychological thrillers, but that was before I had B. I think having a child makes these types of books hard to read because you can relate it to your life, and that is frightening.

However this book reminded me of a time in my life that I struggled with, and sometimes still struggle with. Seven years ago the world lost an amazing human being. One of my best friends tragically drowned while out cliff jumping with some friends. I remember everything about the day, but the days after were a blur. The year after had some of the highest moments in my life, but also some of the lowest.

The majority of my friends had graduated already and I was one of 3 of our group still in school. Nick had moved to Boston for a job, and I was feeling alone. I dwelled in the what-ifs and the pity parties. I pushed a lot of people away, relationships I wished I could have maintained are no longer even reachable.

I was angry and I hated everyone. Jack was loved by everyone, there is no question about that, but we were friends since the day we met, and I felt like all these people who sorta knew him were treading on my grief (silly, I know that now). He was silly — he loved practical jokes and especially loved pulling them on me, I guess that’s what happens when you are the only girl in a group of friends. He cared about our friendship, and about the relationships I had in my life, he was the brother I never had. We had a small circle that transferred to WPI at the same time and we hung out all the time. To this day, I only have a great relationship with one of them. I realized he was the glue that held us together. I was mad at him, he always did stupid things, like cliff diving, and I felt that he was being so selfish, leaving the world when I wasn’t ready for him to.

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L-R: Jack, Rob, Sean and I am in front.
The last time the four of us were together.

A year after his death a bunch of us made the trek to upstate New York, Jack’s love of outdoors was definitely inherited from his parents. As part of their process they got a piece of land and were planning on cutting the brush and trees down to make a trail, in his honor.

We made it to the trail a few days after most of his family, but we still wanted to help. One of the people who was still there brought us to where they had left out. One of our group stepped on a Ground Hornets (or is it wasps?) nest. They literally attacked me, my sister and another friend started flicking them off me but there were too many. I took off my shirt and ran through the woods towards the cabin we were staying in. I was covered in bumps and was in pain. Sadly, this was not the first time this happened so I knew what I had to do. As soon as everyone got out of the woods and was okay, a few of us took a drive to the nearest drug store. We stocked up on Benadryl and medicine for me. While we were in the store the power started flicking on and off and when we left it was down pouring. All I could do was laugh, typical Jack, I said. That’s when I knew I would be okay. I knew he would let me know that he is still looking out for me (and playing jokes) and that I can still count on him.

Whenever I go through a rough spot, I pray, but I also ask Jack for a sign. Maybe its stupid, but it helps me knowing that he is still a part of my life.

Everyone deals with death and grief differently, certain songs on the radio remind me of our countless road trips. Whenever I see an Eagle Summit, I think of him. I deal with realizing that people are in our life to teach us something, whether good or bad, and we don’t get to choose how long they are here for. It took me years to accept that last part. 

I will admit, it is hard that I can’t introduce him to B, or he can’t see the path Nick and I’s relationship has taken, or anything in the future that will be without him. I know that he is making people happy wherever he is.

2 thoughts on “The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: Holding On

  1. this is just so tragic. i feel fortunate that i have not yet in my life had to deal with a devastating loss such as this. and a friend with so much light and life too is so difficult to lose i’d imagine because of just how much darker the world seems without him or her. the worst thing though is to let something like this impact your ability to love. it seems that is not the way you chose to handle your grief – look at your beautiful family! you know that’s what your friend would have wanted.

  2. Pingback: Book Club Day: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner

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