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Sunday, 6 February 2011

After you by Julie Buxbaum

Most works of fiction start out in fairly normal circumstances, we get to know the characters and then something happens and we see how they deal with the aftermath of the event be it good or bad and then we leave the characters in most cases wondering how things went from there, especially if the book was so well written we came to care for the protagonists. This book is different from most because that is the point at which we join the characters.
We see the story unfold from Ellie’s point of view, as we join her she’s comforting Sophie, the eight-year-old daughter of her recently murdered best friend, Lucy. Ellie has dropped her job and the husband she’s been slowly drawing away from to go and comfort her goddaughter through this traumatic time in London, three thousand miles away from her home in Boston. As we journey through the days of trying to get life back on track, we see these two broken people bond over the reading of a childrens book, The Secret Garden.
As each persons story unfolds we learn the reason why Ellie feels so strongly that she needs to be with Sophie right now, we watch the hurt surface as she finds out Lucy had been holding back before she was taken from them about what her life in London had really been. We see Greg coming to terms with the loss of his wife and suddenly having to deal with nightmares and bedtime stories instead of his legal work and the late nights he was used to. And then there’s Sophie, already grown-up well beyond her years in so many ways and yet still so much a child who mostly doesn’t have the words to explain what she’s feeling.

There are good things that happen to those around this nebulous grouping but to tell you those would take away the joy they bring when you need them to in this sad and yet life affirming tale. The true joy of this book is in how amazingly well each character is written, there are no hero’s or heroine’s here, just real people struggling to cope in the aftermath of losing a loved one.
When I heard about this book I was intrigued by it, wondering if it was my sort of book at all as I normally read happy books or ones with mysteries that get resolved but something about it caught my attention and made me want to read it. When I began it I pushed aside all my feelings of apprehension and just concentrated on the story. I am so glad I did, it caught my imagination very quickly and soon I was involved in all of their lives, I laughed and shed a few tears as I traversed the months alongside Ellie as she tries to come to terms with everything that is happening to and around her and when I turned the last page I felt at peace. Yes, bad things do happen but they dont break us as much as we think they will when they first happen and that is the message I have taken from this book. I probably won’t read it again for a while but when times are bad, this would be a great book to read to give hope that things will get better. In my experience, then generally do, we just need something to remind us of that :) 

Originally posted on my other blog on August 18, 2010 moved here on Feb 6th 2011

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