Sunday, November 29, 2009

After You by Julie Buxbaum

Book Description:
"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."

Though others have categorized this book as chick-lit, I think that underplays the emotional truths laid out in the narrative. When Ellie's friend Lucy is killed, Ellie knows she has to rush to London to help care for Sophie; what she doesn't seem to realize is how much her actions are driven by a desire to escape the life she is currently living. Ellie uses that classic tale The Secret Garden to reach out to Sophie because her mother used it years before to reach out to Ellie in a time of grief, or at least so Ellie believes. Over the course of the novel, Ellie comes to realize that Lucy's perfect life in London wasn't so perfect, and begins to address the problems in her own marriage that helped drive her out of the country.

This book is features a compelling narrative that does founder a little toward the middle before recovering, but the emotional truths that Ellie comes to learn more than make up for that brief section. Definitely an excellent read that I for one found hard to put down. Highly recommended.

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