Friday, March 30, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

Most chick-lit begins with a heroine going through a number of awkward and cringe-worthy moments before ending happily ever after with the prince charming of her dreams. This is not that novel. Shelly has been mourning her prince charming for three years since he was killed by a bomb in Spain, barely able to breathe under the weight of his absence. Ironically, on the day she finally begins to heal, a stranger arrives on her doorstep who reminds her of Max to such an extent that she begins to wonder how well she knew her husband. Together she and the stranger embark on what becomes a very surreal journey, back to the European trip five years earlier where Shelly first met Max, and as she recounts each leg of the tour she begins to realize that the very off-the-beaten-track trip on which Max led them was actually revealing something about Max and his own history.  And what a strangely detailed history it is, with stops at the French Revolution, The Battle of Bicocca during the Italian War of 1521, a small monastery in Austria in the 1200s, the birth of Venice, the eruption of Vesuvius, and an encounter with a Slovenian demonic legend. The historical stories are fascinating, and what keeps Shelly’s parts from being strictly chick-lit and makes it literary is the authors beautiful, poetic turns of phrases as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her husband. Monsters and death haunt her at every step, and as she gets closer to the truth of her husband’s story, she is faced with a terrible, life-altering decision. And here is the spoiler - Shelly makes the decision, but the author leaves her readers wondering about the result. Some readers will find this unsatisfying, but this is the type of novel that can get under your skin and niggle at you for a long time. 
This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on March 29, 2012. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.    

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