I should have known better. I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment or a masochist. I didn’t like Me Before You, so I’m not sure what possessed me to check out the sequel, After You. I don’t know if I thought it was going to get better or if somehow the characters were going to redeem themselves I must have just been very hopeful. Because it didn’t get any better and the characters certainly didn’t redeem themselves. This is the first book in a very long time that I just wanted to be done with and I didn’t really care what happened to anyone in the book. Dangerously close to a DNF, but I pushed through and was completely underwhelmed by the entire thing.
The story picks up a year and a half later. Louisa is working in a bar in the airport, depressed and completely unable to move on with her life. She’s miserable and she’s utterly devoid of any spark of life. Gone is the vibrant and talkative woman that we met in the first book. She’s been replaced with a wet noodle with absolutely no personality and seems to have even less coping skills than she had before. She has fallen apart and doesn’t seem to be able to put the pieces of her life back together again. She lies alone in a nearly empty apartment and one night finds herself drunk, on the roof yelling at Will and her life. She falls. Louisa goes back home to recuperate and has to convince everyone that she didn’t jump. Even the paramedic who was the first responder.
She stays home for awhile and we get to hear more about her family drama and her family becomes a character in this book, something I think we could have done without. They are all utterly annoying. You want to slap all of them at several moments. The story went nowhere and their involvement ended with absolutely no resolution, so I don’t know why it was made so important in the first place.
The romance that Louisa has with Ambulance Sam was actually quite nice at points. But at other points it just lost it’s authenticity. The additional drama of Lily was interesting in the beginning, but it soon just became another excuse for Louisa to just ignore her life and just dwell on someone else’s problems. I mean who in their rational mind would turn down the chance to go to New York City to work for a millionaire and be a companion to a rich businessman’s wife? Especially when she can work with her old friend nurse Nathan?
I know that I’m again in the minority when it comes to Lou Clark. I know that both books received overwhelmingly good reviews. This is just my personal review. You might love it. If you want to see what happened to Louisa after Me Before You, then you will probably like this book. If you were as exasperated as I was with Louisa, then you might want to steer clear.
This book opens on a pretty awful scene. Luke Richardson is returning home after burying his beloved wife, Natalie. Not only is he dealing with his own grief, but also the grief of their three young children and learning how to parent their children alone. Something that he’s really not prepared for is the sight of a blue envelope in Natalie’s handwriting waiting for him on the floor of their home. Inside the envelop is a letter from Natalie, written on her first day of cancer treatment. This letter turns out to be the first of many. Luke is convinced that they are genuine, but who is sending them?
As the letters keep coming, Luke begins to learn that his wife had secrets, ones that she never told him, not even when she knew that her cancer wasn’t going to go into remission. As he continues to receive these letters, he becomes obsessed with them and their content. He begins to question everything that he ever believed to be true about his wife and their marriage.
The premise was really good. Putting myself in Luke’s shoes, I would probably become just as obsessed with these letters from my loved one that just suddenly started showing up right after the funeral. I could totally empathize with Luke in the beginning and even when he started finding out her secrets, I could go along with his reactions. But there were too many times where I just wanted to throttle him for being an idiot.
There were a lot of secondary characters that had a lot of page-time dedicated to them, but you really didn’t get a very good sense of who they were and how they fit into Luke and Natalie’s life. The relationships seemed a little stilted and wooden. Natalie’s mother absolutely hated Luke, but you really don’t get a sense of why. You would think that no matter how much you might dislike your son-in-law, that you would at least bury the hatchet long enough to have the funeral and help her grandchildren mourn.
It was kind of neat to get to know a character solely through her letters. I think that was probably the best aspect of the book for me. Learning about Natalie through her letters. She began them on the very day that she first started her treatments and as her disease got progressively worse, she began to open up about everything. How she wanted Luke to go on after she passed. What her deepest secret was and how it could effect him and their family.
The twist wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be. Probably because I figured it out pretty quickly. I think without some of the foreshadowing the twist could have been much more of a surprise. I also wish it didn’t end as abruptly as it did. It ended on a cautiously optimistic note, but there were still so many questions left unanswered.
4 1/2 Stars
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for the chance to read this book.
Nichole and Leanne are an unlikely duo. Leanne is Nichole’s mother-in-law and now they have both left their troubled marriages and have taken up apartments in Portland near each other. They are each other’s support and they have created a set of rules to live by in order to get their lives back. They are now taking care of themselves, something that they lost along the way during their now broken marriages.
Nichole was married to Jake, Leanne’s son. When she finds out that he was cheating on her and got another woman pregnant, she showed amazing strength and left him and served him with divorce papers. Leanne drew strength from Nichole and finally got up the courage to leave Sean and their marriage of nearly 35 years. For decades she had been quietly ignoring his cheating and indiscretions, but in watching her son follow the same pattern as his father, she has finally had enough and walks out and starts a new life.
It is now two years since they left their respective husbands. Jake has been dragging his feet and is finally ready to finalize the divorce. Nichole gets this news and promptly backs her car into a ditch. She meets Rocco, a local tow-truck owner who drags her car out of the ditch and through a series of events that were both comical and endearing, they begin a friendship that could definitely move into something more. Rocco is the opposite of the white-collar Jake but maybe this is just what Nichole needs.
Leanne has started volunteering to teach an English as a second language class in the evenings. This is where she meets Nikolai, a very talented baker from the Ukraine. He soon becomes her favorite student and is taken to walking her to her car every evening and baking her bread. He slowly begins to show her that she is lovable and desirable. That her ex-husband was a fool.
While this is definitely part of the happy endings club of books, you really wonder through the majority of the book if this will ever happen or if this will be one of those books that defies the odds and doesn’t give the characters a happier ending. There are more than a few tear-jerker moments and I definitely gasped out loud a few times. It’s not all sunshine and roses for these ladies and the men in their lives. There are plenty of conflicts and tragedies that wind their way through this story. This is definitely not your typical romance novel and I was very pleasantly surprised by this. It was a very engaging story and I found myself blazing through it, unable to put it down.
I loved all of the characters, even Jake and Sean. They had an authenticity to them that you couldn’t deny. While this isn’t my typical genre, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a good romance novel with a great ending. Authentic characters and a story that doesn’t require you to suspend belief. This is a story that could probably happen to any of us and probably echoes some of our own marriages and struggles. I am definitely a fan of this book and will most likely be looking into other books by the author if they are anything like A Girl’s Guide to Moving On.