Monday, August 1, 2011
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max; same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose; he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.
As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem; how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down; if it is really Max and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.
I received a free ARC of this book.
If you have not preordered this novel yet, then stop reading this review and go to Amazon and buy it. I promise you will not regret it. This is a magical tale of love and secrets, by turns funny, touching and heartbreaking. This is one of those books that will grab you from the first page and not let you go until you’ve absorbed every word. Even then, it will linger with you for days.
The story is original and yet familiar enough to resonate in the reader’s imagination. How many times have we felt that the person beside us is a stranger? How many times have we wondered if we know everything there is to know about our significant other? Well, this book takes that to an extreme level, pushing the boundaries of our belief, yet never breaking them. It is expertly crafted, exquisitely plotted, with a delicacy that makes every chapter a little jewel to cradle. The many stories interwoven into the plot add levels of symbolism that make this book a wonder to read.
Max and Shelley, the protagonists, have abundant charisma, enough to spill over from the pages and eke into the reader’s life. Their dialogue is hilarious, Max obsession with chickens a blast of freshness. Shelley is wholly human, three-dimensional and a riot to follow on her adventures. That is not to say that the rest of the characters are any less that marvelous. They will each steal a piece of your heart.
I can easily recommend this to absolutely everyone. Add this one to your to-be-read lists.