Saturday, July 25, 2009

My first review!

Title: After You
Author: Julie Buxbaum
ISBN: 978-0-385-34124-0
Pages: 337
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
A wonderful, emotionally-charged, character driven story about loss, love and the power of the human spirit to adapt and change. You won't want to put it down.

Publisher: On a cobblestone street in Notting Hill, Ellie Lerner's life-long best friend, Lucy, is stabbed to death in front of her eight-year-old daughter. Ellie, of course, drops everything - her job, her marriage, her life in the Boston suburbs - and travels to London to pick up the pieces of the life Lucy has left behind. While Lucy's husband, Greg copes with his grief by retreating to the pub, 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, its story of hurt, magic and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do the secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. 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 the elusiveness of the place we choose to call home.
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.

I thought this book was going to be fluff, finished quickly with no lingering attachments. I was wrong. This is an emotionally charged story filled with myriads of life-altering, painful events sure to test even the most stoic of individuals. Eight year-old Sophie's reaction to her mother's murder is an example of the emotionally taught, touching and relatable writing by Ms. Buxbaum. As Ellie supports and comforts Sophie and Greg, Lucy's husband, she struggles to cope with her own pain at losing her best friend. Ellie's grief forces her to confront her own actions, both recent and in her past. When nightmares ensue and secrets are revealed, relationships are questioned as well as what it is to feel secure and happy. The reader discovers that Ms. Buxbaum has written a complex and ultimately satisfying tale about loss, love, forgiveness and new beginnings.

Ms. Buxbaum excels at creating some rich, complex, three-dimensional characters readers from all walks of life will find familiar. I was able to feel their pain, anger and their aggravations as well as relate to their times of joy. Several times I wanted to wrap my arms around Sophie and protect her, even read to her. I wanted to sit with Ellie over a cup of tea and commiserate while she tried to figure out her life and there were times I wanted to shake her! Ms. Buxbaum's characters dealt with real-life situations in realistic ways and the dialogue rang true, peppered with wry, sarcastic humor that offered welcome breaks from the tension in the story.

Unfortunately, not all of Ms. Buxbaum's characters were developed as well as others. I regret not getting to know Ellie's husband, Phillip, and father, Christopher better. Though seemingly secondary characters, a better fleshing out would have helped the reader understand better Ellie's motivations and decisions. For example, one wonders why we aren't given more information and insight into the husband, who's role in Ellie's life is pivotal.

A charming, yet ultimately unsatisfactory part of the book is when Ellie reads The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett with Sophie. Ellie hopes that Sophie will be able to "forget everything that has been lost and taken." for a little while, anyway. She introduces Sophie, an avid reader, to the book, counting on Burnett's magical story to distract Sophie and help her heal. The reader is reminded several times that Ellie and Sophie are reading The Secret Garden, otherwise it is seldom discussed beyond broad outlines. I expected that the reader would "hear" more about how the characters' story in The Secret Garden helped Sophie, and maybe Ellie, cope with their losses but that largely remained untold. I was disappointed that this wonderful book (if you've never read The Secret Garden, make sure you do!) didn't have a more substantial role in After You.


  1. This sounds like my kind of book; I'll be adding this one to my wishlist! :)
    I enjoyed reading your review. I'll be looking out for more of them.

  2. You did a fantastic job on your first review! I wish my reviews were that good, lol. I'll be looking forward to more reviews by you, and am now going to have to read this sounds very interesting.

  3. Great review. This looks like a good book and your review made it sound even better. Nicely done.

  4. congrads on the first review!

    but please, tell me, what is the lighthouse at the bottom of the page? ya just can't be putting pictures of unnamed lighthouse out there! ;-)

  5. Hi Amy,
    Thanks so much for your lovely and thoughtful review of AFTER YOU. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the book, and so appreciate you taking the time to write about it. (And I'm absolutely honored to be your first review!)

    Again thanks so much!
    All the best,

  6. That's a very good first review. And the author commented on your review too, way to go!
    Thank you for visiting Fresh Ink Books and for your generous comment. Your furry children's pictures are fun, cats are so relaxing to watch. I look forward to more of your reviews.

  7. Congratulations on your first review. It is a fabulous one at that.

  8. Thank you, everyone, for your support! It means so much to me. You've made me feel great about my first review. Reviews are very different than writing an essay, a short story or a blog! because of the critical bent required, something that's hard to do. I was fortunate to have a terrific book to review I have 2 more reviews to write which I will do in the next day or two.
    Julie, thank you for coming by! I'm honored that you did. I was so happy that my first review was a great book like yours! I'm going to read "The Opposite of Love" soon, hopefully this weekend!
    Caite, thank you for reminding me that I didn't write the name of the lighthouse in the picture! It's Brant Point Light in Nantucket, MA. I'll be sure to cotrrect that today!


  9. Amy! What a fantastic review! Great blog & lucky girl with all of your cats! I'm jealous!

  10. Great review; i just got this one.

    BTW: big kitty fan here; love your photos.