Title: After You
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Publisher: The Dial Press
Genre: Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
The complexities of a friendship. The unexplored doubts of a marriage. And the redemptive power of literature…Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a haunting, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other—and ourselves.
It happened on a tree-lined street in Notting Hill to a woman who seemed to have the perfect life. Ellie Lerner’s best friend, Lucy, was murdered in front of her young daughter. And, as best friends do, Ellie dropped everything—her marriage, her job, her life in the Boston suburbs—to travel to London and pick up the pieces of Lucy’s life. While Lucy’s husband, Greg, copes with his grief by retreating into himself, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.
Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel’s winding passageways, its story of hurt, magic, and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do Lucy’s secrets—some big, some small—secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. Over a summer in London, as Ellie peels back the layers of her friend’s life, she’s forced to confront her own as well: the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape. And suddenly Ellie’s carefully constructed existence is spinning out of control in a chain of events that will transform her life—and those around her— forever. A novel that will resonate in the heart of anyone who’s had a best friend, a love lost, or a past full of regrets, After You proves once again the unique and compelling talent of Julie Buxbaum.
Julie Buxbaum’s The Opposite of Love [review] was one of my favorite books of 2008. I’m a huge fan of Buxbaum’s writing, so when she told me that she had a new book coming out in August, I couldn’t wait to read it. I was a little nervous because I had very high expectations, but I shouldn’t have worried. After You is a thoughtful and touching book that I couldn’t put down.
I loved so many things about After You that I don’t even know where to start. The character of Ellie was wonderfully written. I sympathized with her completely – her panic at the death of her best friend Lucy, her unconditional love for Lucy’s daughter Sophie, and her inability to move on with life after the death of her unborn child, Oliver. Though we are in very different places in our lives, I saw a lot of myself in Ellie, a lot of my own hesitation and fears. I think that is what I love most about Julie Buxbaum’s writing – her ability to develop three-dimensional characters that are completely real.
I also really enjoyed Buxbaum’s use of the children’s novel The Secret Garden in order to help Sophie overcome her grief at her mother Lucy’s death. As a child, I absolutely loved The Secret Garden. But more than that, Buxbaum’s premise that books can help us cope, even in the darkest times, really spoke to me. It wasn’t just Sophie who healed through The Secret Garden; Ellie used it as a way to deal with her grief as well. That was a wonderful message that permeated through the book.
Additionally, Julie Buxbaum’s writing is absolutely beautiful. She has a way with words that is difficult to describe, so I’m just going to share some passages here with you.
“Perhaps these are the most frightening moments of married life, when you turn to your partner and realize you have promised to spend the rest of your life with someone you no longer recognize. Someone you can no longer even see.’”
“Wanting may be the worst feeling of all, next to hope. But hope is the worst. Hope is the moment before peeing on the negative stick. Hope is the moment before they tell you they can’t find a heartbeat. Hope is a setup, a bait and switch, an illusion.”
The literary quality of Buxbaum’s writing elevates After You to an entirely different level. As a result, I believe that even if you aren’t a fan of chick lit or women’s fiction, you will find something to love in After You.
I can’t gush enough about how wonderful Julie Buxbaum’s novels are, or how much I enjoyed After You. The characters were wonderfully drawn and the story was compelling. I couldn’t put the book down because I was so anxious to find out what happens to Ellie, to make sure that she learns to live again after Lucy’s death. This was an absolutely wonderful book that I highly recommend!
A huge thank you to Julie Buxbaum for sending me this wonderful book to review!