Book Review: After You by Julie Buxbaum

After-You-USAuthor: Julie Buxbaum

Publisher: One Dial Press/Random House

ISBN #:   978-0-385-34124-0

Type:  Fiction

Pages: 352 Hardback

Published:  August 25, 2009


Purchase:  $16.50 (HERE


The Story

notting hill streetEllie Lerner has just lost Lucy, her best friend since childhood.  Lucy was murdered in the streets of her hometown, Notting Hill, London.  Lucy’s 8-year old daughter, Sophie, witnessed the murder, is in shock, and has stopped speaking.  Ellie immediately travels from her home in the U.S. to London to be with Sophie and lend a hand to Greg, Lucy’s husband. 

After Ellie’s absence exceeds his expectations, Ellie’s husband, Phillip, is less than enthusiastic about Ellie being so far from home.  He presses her to come home as soon as possible, however Ellie just can’t imagine leaving her god-daughter who clearly was still in so much pain.  Greg isn’t able to be much of a father to Sophie and retreats into his grief.  As Ellie is a lover of books, she decides that The Secret Garden is just the book for her and Sophie to read together.  She hopes this book will build a bridge between them and help Sophie deal with her grief.  And, so it does… little by little, this story they share creates an opportunity for Ellie and Sophie to bond as they grieve the loss of Lucy, together.

the-secret-gardenNot only is Ellie still in mourning Lucy’s death, she is still grieving the loss of her baby, Oliver.  Since her baby’s unexpected death, in vitro at 8 months gestation, Ellie’s marriage has been on the brink of collapse as she pushes her husband, Phillip, away.  Now, with this extended absence in England, Ellie’s marriage falls farther and farther into an eventual break-up.  But, all she can think about is Sophie.  She wants to help this little girl overcome the great hurts in her life. 

Ellie urges Greg find a way out of his isolated grief to participate in the healing of Sophie’s heart and mind after the traumatic experience.  And, so the two of them tackle the issues of nightmares, bed-wetting, and school problems with love and getting her professional help.  The closer that Ellie gets to Sophie, the farther she gets from home.  Phillip loses all patience with Ellie’s absence from the marriage and files for divorce.

Torn between her old life and the new one she found while parenting Sophie, Ellie must discover the path which will lead her back to happiness.  As she uncovers the secrets and lies that Lucy kept before her untimely death, Ellie realizes truths about the person she thought she knew best in this world.  Simultaneously, she is faced with the discovery of self… and the need for her soul to be true to it.

The Review

julie-buxbaumI had read wonderful things about After You, as well as The Opposite of Love, on the internet.  Several blogs have mentioned that this author writes great books.  Their recommendations were spot-on! 

I literally absorbed this book in the matter of 2 days, or so.  I felt an immediate connection with the story and its characters.  Buxbaum expertly ties the readers to the protagonist, Ellie, as quickly as the story began.  Her portrayal of 8-year old Sophie absolutely tugs at your heart strings.  As the reader of this novel, you imagine what it would be like to be Sophie and witness your mother brutally stabbed and killed over a street robbery incident… standing there helpless and afraid.  How does this nightmare of this magnitude ever leave a person who witnesses such a horrific event?  How does one avoid feeling responsible or guilty in some way? 

With immediate connections to both Ellie and Sophie, After You‘s readers will just as easily find an understanding of both Greg and Phillip.  Both men are humanly flawed and allow the reader to wish for nothing but to see them overcome their painful hurdles.  Ultimately, they are both good men.

My favorite line of the book is when Ellie is trying to reel Sophie into reading The Secret Garden with her:

“And you know what else?  Books are almost a religion for me.  Probably the only guaranteed way to get out of my own head and escape for a little while.  You know what I mean?”

Another part of the story which I related to is when Ellie is pondering how her extended stay in London, and looming break-up with Phillip, will end up:

“But this is not a movie, and things are never simple.  Besides which I have no interest in seeing Greg naked.  We are fellow soldiers at war-he is my brother, he is my comrade-and so there will be no falling into bed and easy cleanup.  Our lives are not a puzzle that needs solving but blurry pieces, loose ends, competing loyalties.  Resolution has no place in our story.

Instead, I will keep sitting here, sipping my scotch, and wondering who I’ve suddenly become without the people who most defined me.”

Without the people who most defined me… that really strikes a chord with me.  How much of our selves are defined by our relationships with others?

With relatable characters, real-life challenges, and emotional writing that keeps you connected, you will find After You a book that you’re glad you picked up and most likely won’t be able to put down!

The Rating

9On Sher’s “Out of Ten Scale,” I am giving After You a rating of 9 out of 10 in the genre of fiction.  There was such ease in reading this book about human complexities. 

P.S. I liked this book so much that I ordered The Opposite of Love and The Secret Garden (*nope, never read it*) off tonight!

Giving Thanks

I wanted to thank Julie Buxbaum for providing me such a wonderful novel to read and share! 

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9 Responses

  1. Sandy

    September 30th, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Oh, The Secret Garden is such a special book. Magical. I can understand how an author would want to build it into a story about healing. This one sounds highly emotional from so many perspectives. Didn’t you get frustrated with the men?
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Rebecca Read Along =-.

  2. Kathy

    September 30th, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Oh my, I don’t think you’d ever get over witnessing your mother’s murder. This does sound like a great book.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Wondrous Words Wednesday =-.

  3. Jenny

    September 30th, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Great review! I’ve really been wanting to read this one! I may give in and buy it, hehe.
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..Winnter #2 again =-.

  4. Amanda

    September 30th, 2009 at 5:24 am

    I have heard nothing but good reviews on this one. It is definitely on my wishlist.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog .."Waiting On" Wednesday =-.

  5. Jo-Jo

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for the review Sheri…I was kind of on the fence about this one but I think you have swayed me. I haven’t read The Secret Garden yet either.
    .-= Jo-Jo´s last blog ..Wondrous Words Wednesday-Sept. 30 =-.

  6. Katrina

    September 30th, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Wow, this book sounds amazing! Something I can really enjoy. I love The Secret Garden too.

  7. softdrink

    September 30th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I haven’t even heard of this one, but it sounds like a winner. Do you get to see much of London through the book?
    .-= softdrink´s last blog ..Lolita =-.

  8. Darlene

    October 2nd, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I’m glad to see you enjoyed this one Sheri. I’ve got it coming up this month to read and I’m really looking forward to it.
    .-= Darlene´s last blog ..Winners of The Smart One and the Pretty One =-.

  9. Julie Buxbaum

    October 8th, 2009 at 5:14 am

    Thank you so much for the absolutely lovely and thoughtful review! I am so glad you enjoyed AFTER YOU, and so appreciate you taking the time to write about it! And thank you too for helping spread the word. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

    All the best,
    Julie Buxbaum

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