Riley Sager | The Only One Left

The Book: 

The Only One Left by Riley Sager
Published June 20, 2023 by Dutton
Date read: June 25, 2023

The Characters: 

Lenora Hope

Buy it on | Amazon

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The Plot (from Goodreads):

At seventeen, Lenora Hope
Hung her sister with a rope

Now reduced to a schoolyard chant, the Hope family murders shocked the Maine coast one bloody night in 1929. While most people assume seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, the police were never able to prove it. Other than her denial after the killings, she has never spoken publicly about that night, nor has she set foot outside Hope’s End, the cliffside mansion where the massacre occurred.

Stabbed her father with a knife
Took her mother’s happy life

It’s now 1983, and home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives at a decaying Hope’s End to care for Lenora after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night. In her seventies and confined to a wheelchair, Lenora was rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer—I want to tell you everything.

“It wasn’t me,” Lenora said
But she’s the only one not dead

As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there’s more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth—and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.

How did The Only One Left end?

Click here for book spoilers for The Only One Left
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The Only One Left, I suggest you turn back now.

The patient that Kit let OD on fentanyl was her mother.

Carter had taken the job at Hope’s End because he thought he might be Lenora’s grandson. Lenora had gotten pregnant by the gardener before her family died, but there was clearly no child to speak of. Around the time she would have given birth, though, a baby turned up abandoned at the police station in town.

Mrs. Baker was the one that Lenora’s father had been having an affair with right before he died. In the present-day timeline, she told Kit that she stayed at Hope’s End because Lenora had promised it to her when she died if she kept it in shape.

Kit searched Mrs. Baker’s room and found out that she had been paying for someone’s care at the local nursing home. It turned out to be the wife of the man that had gotten Lenora pregnant. Kit went to question her but got nothing, but the detective gave her a copy of Mary’s “suicide note”. Kit realized what it meant:

The Reveal:

The Mrs. Baker that Kit had met was really Lenora. The woman in the bed, pretending to be Lenora, was really Virginia (her sister). Virginia was the one who had been pregnant. After she gave birth her father sent the baby away. As payback, Virginia presumably killed both her parents and then tried to hang herself. She was unsuccessful, only permanently crippling her body.

Lenora, an orphan at 17 now with a disabled sister to take care of, didn’t know what to do. She paid off some people to keep her name change a secret, became Mrs. Baker, and started referring to Virginia as Lenora. She went to Europe for a few years to escape Hope’s End, but eventually returned to take care of Virginia.

The real Mrs. Baker had taken the baby to Canada. Carter was not the grandson.

But then we find out that Kit’s father Patrick was the “Ricky” that had impregnated Virginia. Virginia and Lenora’s mother killed their father for trying to pay Ricky off to run away. He had done the same for her lover (Lenora’s father). Their mother then convinced Ricky to stab her. Virginia then tried to kill herself and Ricky presumably left.

Ricky, Kit’s father, killed Mary because she knew too much.

Patrick/Ricky arrived at the house presumably to kill anyone that knew about his involvement. Kit tried to hide herself and Virginia, but Patrick found virginia. They had it out and Lenora arrived with a shotgun. Patrick and Lenora scuffled, and Lenora fell down the stairs just as the house was about to collapse. Patrick and Kit saved Virginia from the collapse, but Lenora refused to leave the house. She wanted to die with it. Nonsensically, Patrick went back to die with her.

Why was the real Lenora surprised that Kit was Patrick’s daughter? When did she have known both of their surnames, since she hired Kit?

The Ending:

Virginia and Kit moved into Kit’s childhood home together. However, one night, Kit came home to find Virginia gone. She later sent a letter explaining that Kit was right all along–she could move and walk and speak and had pretended not to be able to for 50 years. Jessie was her granddaughter–same story as Carter, she had come to find out more, except Jessie was right. Kit had heard Jessie sneaking into Virginia’s room to plan their escape. Jessie had picked Virginia up from Kit’s house and they ran away to Europe together. Virginia sent two tickets for Kit and Archie to join them, which her obituary at age 101 at the end of the book implies that Kit did.

The Review: 

As a structural engineer, this house gave me so much anxiety. Get the people out and get some professionals in there! When I wasn’t overly focused on the should-be-condemned house, I really enjoyed The Only One Left. This is the Riley Sager we know and love!

The Only One Left is fast-paced, engaging, and sure to keep you guessing. I loved the haunted house setting (or would have if it wasn’t a structural engineering nightmare). Kit was an interesting main character, although I pictured her as much younger than she was supposed to be.

I will say that the ending threw a lot at the reader at once and might have been a little over the top. A few things didn’t quite make sense to me. Still a fun list, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even if you were disappointed by Sager’s last two thrillers, definitely give this one a chance!

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