Title: Before Ever After
Author: Samantha Sotto
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism
Rating: 4 out of 5
Shelley has everything she’s ever wanted out of life when she receives devastating news – her beloved husband, Max, has been killed. Three years later, Shelley still hasn’t gotten over his death, when something amazing, yet impossible happens: a man shows up at her doorstep claiming to be her dead husband’s grandson. It’s impossible – Max would have been just a boy when this man was born – but something about his story intrigues Shelley, and they set off to find out the truth about Max.
Before Ever After is a novel that defies expectations as you read it. While at the beginning, it seems to be a women’s fiction novel about a young widow coming to terms with her husband’s death, it becomes apparent very quickly that the book is much more than that. To be honest, the paranormal twist the novel has caught me off guard, to the point where I almost abandoned it because it was so strange. I feel like if I had been more aware of the fact that there were some magical aspects to this book, I would have enjoyed it much more, which is why I wanted to warn the reader about it without spoiling too much of the plot.
The book is mainly told through flashbacks, which worked well. It helped the reader get to know Shelley and realize that, from the beginning, there was something different about Max. They met through a tour Max hosted, a trip across Europe where he related little known stories and helped his tourists to really see the places they were visiting. This tour sounded really wonderful and Sotto’s descriptions were exceptionally done. It’s a book that will give anyone reading it a bit of a travel bug, as readers will want to visit the places that Shelley sees and experiences.
Once I finally let go of all my expectations about Before Ever After and really settled into it, I enjoyed it. Sotto’s writing style is fresh and engaging, and I love how she handled descriptions – they are vivid, but the book does not become bogged down by the details. Additionally, the historical interludes that Max relates are fascinating. In just a few short pages, Sotto reveals so much about the characters and their histories. Indeed, all the characters in this novel are well developed. It’s clear that Sotto cared about each and every one of them and wanted the reader to know them as well as she did.
I do wish I had known about Before Ever After’s paranormal aspect before reading it; I would have approached the novel differently and been able to fully appreciate it. But once I let go of my preconceived notions and tried to fully experience it, I’m glad to say I did see the beauty of this book. It’s well-written, engaging, and as long as you’re in the mood for something unexpected and different, it’s a great novel to pick up.