Posted by: terrytek | May 25, 2011

After You by Julie Buxbaum

Year published: 2009
Genre: Contemporary fiction, “chick lit”
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Pros:

  1. Well-written
  2. Fully developed characters
  3. Interesting premise

Cons:

  1. Main plot device is a bit unrealistic

(Warning: following discussion contains spoilers)
I enjoyed this book a lot, because I thought the idea of stepping into someone else’s life was interesting. Ellie is an American woman whose best friend Lucy, an American living in London with her British family, is murdered. Ellie goes to England to help take care of Lucy’s daughter Sophie, who is also Ellie’s goddaughter. She stays in Lucy’s house with Sophie and Lucy’s husband, Greg.
The plot device that I referred to as “a bit unrealistic” under “Cons” is the fact that Lucy basically leaves her entire life behind in the US to stay for an extended time in the UK. First of all, she’s married–even though her marriage is clearly having problems, I don’t think too many people would leave their spouses for such an extended period. She also has a job! She is a college professor. Conveniently, the murder seems to occur at the beginning of a summer, so she has some time where she can be away from her job, but it’s a little vague what she does after that. The fact that she would leave both her husband and job behind just struck me as “not too likely”. Anyway, I digress….
Ellie has to deal with the fact that Sophie was a witness to her mother’s murder and all that that entails. She also has to deal with a grieving widower. Thank you to the author for not having Ellie and Greg fall for each other or even have a romantic relationship; that would have been just too cliched. There are interesting secondary characters in the novel, such as the members of Ellie’s family.
Of course, even people who seem to have a perfect life from the outside rarely have a perfect life. Ellie finds out that there was a lot more going on in Lucy’s life than Lucy had let on to her, even though Ellie and Lucy were the closest of friends.
This book is also an homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book The Secret Garden. I have not read that book, but intend to read it now.

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