Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
Crown Publishing House
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 297 pages
RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars


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.

I wish I could sufficiently say
exactly what’s on my mind
or how to  pick up the pieces
of a heart that’s been sliced to rinds.
I wouldn’t even know where to start
or how to put it in perspective,
but if I silenced my thoughts…
would that be more effective?

It was lovely and sad
maybe even life-changing
It was a story about love
and of a man never ageing.
There was no magic spell
nor is he a night creature.
He is just a man
who’d lived a thousand lives
and adventures.

It would all make sense
once you read this book.
It will make you fall in love
and find yourself hooked.
To the characters worth knowing
and to the places that perhaps
you’ve never been.
To the subject of history
that we once found boring.

Do you believe in serendipity?
Or in finding your destiny?
Disregarding time
and centuries of history?
Well this is their story –
how their love came to be.
Would you choose life?
Or would you die to live for eternity?

So listen. Can I take back all those gushing reviews for books that I now consider as mediocre after reading Before Ever After? I’m not going to name names but I’m hanging my head down in shame. The truth is, I don’t know jack. I have had this book sitting unread for more than a year – and in our cabin, no less – which means that the chances of me picking it up was close to maybe never. But for some serendipitous reason, I joined this challenge thing on Goodreads and thought, heck, why not? It was a debut author challenge and I wanted to jump start my foray into the Adult Fiction. Oh my God. It’s like I’ve never lived before this book.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

And what about your love for Ms. Marchetta, you ask? Well, I still love her. She’s still my goddess. But Samantha Sotto’s work here puts her in the running of a demi-goddess status. You need to read this book. Otherwise, you’re missing the entire point of why we read to escape to begin with. Granted, the novel isn’t all fun and rainbows and unicorns, because parts of it was a tad bit painful to read but it doesn’t give you time to dwell on the torture that it just put you through. The book will pick you back up, dust you off, and will spirit you away back to Europe’s grand and historic beauty. It will also introduce you to characters who deserved their own books. They have their stories to tell and you’ll find yourself wanting – needing more, heck imagining their lives long after you’ve shelved the book.

Before Ever After touched me so deeply in ways that I don’t understand. She writes with such ease and such lyrical beauty that empathy toward the characters are magnified. The places that they’ve been were made even more beautiful with her words.

But I’d come to the grave conclusion that this book is actually my worst nightmare. How do I follow this up? Where do I find a book that’d come close to this? The fact is, probably not for a very long time and unlike Max, time is something I don’t have a lot of.

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