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
Man dies, woman mourns, five years later man who looks like husband shows up on doorstep claiming that he is said man’s grandson and that her once dead husband is thoroughly alive and well making baked eggs in a restaurant in Boracay. Oh, did I forget to mention he NEVER seems to age?
With that being said, after reading that how can you not want to read this book? I wanted answers to questions that the blurb left unanswered. I wanted to know who this mysterious Max was, why he never seemed to age and why he was hiding from his wife.
I did get those answers, and plenty more whilst I was reading, BEFORE EVER AFTER although as much as I enjoyed the back-story that was provided for both Max as well as his relationship with Shelley, I wanted to know what happened when she finally found her husband. Moreover, while I did get a bit of the story, I wanted more than eight pages. I hope that since this is her debut novel, she will put out a sequel that covers what happens after the last page.
I have to say that I loved the way this novel switched from past to present and the way it was seamlessly blended together. It held my attention to the very end, even though I will admit that I came to a certain part in the novel where I had to resist the urge to chuck it up against the wall. I will say that I was glad to have finished it.
This is one of those novels that you do not want to reveal too much about it to a potential reader because it could ruin it for the reader.
IF I COULD CHANGE SOMETHING ABOUT THIS NOVEL:
Make it longer. It was only 293 pages in the proof format, it could have easily went on to 400 pages or more and held the readers interest. I wanted to know more about what happened when she finally found her husband and since so little was offered I feel as though the story is not complete.
It’s unusual for a novel such as this to hold my attention, yet I was spellbound. I could not put it down until the very last page was read. I highly recommend this book
When reading this novel you should have two things on hand: Eggs and Jasmine tea because by the end of this novel you will be craving both.
My thanks to Julie Cepler at Crown Publishers for this advanced copy.