After You by Julie Buxbaum is a novel that will tug at your heart and have you wondering how well you really know the people closest to you. It is a novel full of tragedy, drama, hope and how trying to find yourself in the midst of chaos is sometimes one of the hardest things to do.
On a tree lined street in Notting Hill, Ellie Lerner’s best friend Lucy is murdered. Not only is she brutally murdered but it happens right in front of her eight-year-old daughter Sophie. Ellie and Lucy have been best friends since they were young girls so of course, upon hearing the news, Ellie drops everything -her job, her husband, her life in Boston – to go to London and try to put back together a family devastated by Lucy’s death. Lucy’s husband Greg has withdrawn into himself and loses himself in the bottle more than once; he can barely even look at his daughter without being reminded of Lucy and little Sophie has simply quit talking.
Ellie is at a loss as to what to do for Sophie so she turns to the story The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett that she loved as a girl and still does as an adult. Every night they lay together in bed and read a chapter and slowly Sophie begins to open up and talk again. Healing will be slow; it’s hard enough to lose your mother but even worse in a way like this. Ellie just can’t bring herself to leave Sophie and go home to the US and her husband.
Needless to say Ellie’s husband Phillip is losing patience with her. He feels she’s been there long enough and needs to come home to her own life. To be honest, I was really put out by him and his attitude in this situation. For me, I also felt that Sophie’s needs were really important and while I wouldn’t say she should stay forever, a few months certainly wasn’t out of the question especially as there wasn’t any other family to help out. Ultimately Ellie would have to make a choice – stay with Sophie or go back to her life and try to pick up the pieces of her marriage.
While in London, Ellie starts facing some of the things that have been wearing her down like the loss of her own child who was stillborn and the steady downturn of her marriage afterwords. Being a stand-in mother to Sophie appeals to Ellie and her mothering instinct. In a way I think this experience of parenting Sophie started Ellie on the way to healing herself; it made her face and deal with her feelings of losing her child. On top of everything else, Ellie begins to learn startling truths about Lucy; things she didn’t know. She’s hurt and confused; she and Lucy have always shared everything since they were girls. Why had Lucy started being so secretive? What else had she kept from Ellie? Did she ever really know her best friend; the one person in the world that she thought she knew everything about? Ellie has to make some hard decisions about what she really wants from her life – does she want to start over?, go back to her husband?; and then again sometimes decisions are made for us by other means…
Julie Buxbaum really draws you in with both her beautiful writing style and her characters. I felt a connection to Ellie from the beginning of the novel and that’s what kept me turning the pages to learn more. I literally read this book in a few days; every time I put it down, I wanted to get right back to it and keep reading. It really makes you question some things – like how well do you really know the people closest to you? I know we all think we do but just maybe there are secrets lurking in the background. I think that this book would make an excellent book club pick as well. There are just so many issues talked about from loss, grief, marriage, children – it would definitely keep a book club busy.
One other thing I have to say is that I loved the references to books and reading throughout the novel. As an avid book lover this really appealed to me. Here is one of my favorite quotes…
- ‘Exploring the shelf, seeing all the hours of entertainment right there to get lost in, a siren call to burrow our heads into another world, comforts me. I can tell, in that way that kindred spirits are able to recognize each other, that Sophie feels it too. She may be only eight, and yet I can tell she’s already a real reader, a habit or an addiction or a crutch, depending on which way you look at it, that will carry her through the rest of her life.’ (pg 35)
As you can tell I really enjoyed After You. It appealed to me on so many levels but I think the biggest was an emotional level. After You left an impression on me and it’s a book I won’t soon forget. Pop over and visit Julie Buxbaum’s website and if you just can’t wait to read this book you can purchase it here in the US and here in Canada.
Be sure to drop in tomorrow as I’ll have a guest post from Julie Buxbaum to share with you all and it’s a good one!
To Julie Buxbaum for sending me my copy of After You.