Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

Before Ever After
Author: Samantha Sotto
Published: August 2, 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 297 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max; same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose; he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well. As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem; how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down; if it is really Max and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.

My Thoughts: This was a fantastic debut novel, perhaps one of the best first novels by any author that I have ever read. While I would classify it as contemporary fiction, there's also historical fiction and mystery thrown into the mix, as well. I won't restate the synopsis in my review (since it's right above here), but the premise of the book is something that seemed new to me. Yes, there are many books that deal with immortality, but it has never been discussed in this way and presented as it is in this novel. The chapters jump around in time, sometimes going all the way back to AD 79 all the way through the present day. You learn who Max is and how he became immortal through these histoical vignettes that Samantha Sotto throws in.

The characters in this book are very well written. Shelley is a woman dealing with the loss of her husband, only to discover that he is still alive and on a tropical islands in the Phillipines. Watching her discover and learn about her husband's past, using the story of how they met on a European tour, was pretty cool. As she recounts her story, you can tell that the wheels are going to start clicking inside her head that everything was not as it seemed when they first met. I thought that Paolo could have developed a little bit more, because I felt like his character was just thrust into the story, but it didn't ruin the book in anyway for me. And the best part of this book? The ending! It wasn't at all what I thought was going to happen, and it's what made this a four star book for me. It was surprising and delicious and left me satisfied but wanting more from Sotto! It was fantastic.

I cannot wait to see what Sotto will put out in the future. Based on her first novel, I think she has a great career ahead of her. 

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