Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Love is not static. It changes. It is adaptable. It can grow and it can disappear. It is amazingly special but it isn't easy. It has to be worked at. And if you don't pay attention to it, it can be hidden behind the mundanities of everyday life. When this happens, many people give up, finding it too hard to work their way back to the love they once felt. But are there other options? For Lauren and Ryan, in Taylor Jenkins Reid's newest novel, After I Do, the solution is to take a year off of their marriage to determine if what they once had, the love they once cherished, is worth saving.

Lauren and Ryan met in college. Their relationship was charmed, the envy of friends and family. But eleven years in and six years into their marriage, all is not well in Camelot. In fact, things are downright unhappy. Lauren and Ryan don't even want to be in the same room together anymore. They snipe at each other, throwing small unkindnesses at each other, freezing each other out, cutting at each other a thousand ways. They are resentful, irritated, and annoyed with the other most of the time. Things finally come to a head when they acknowledge the state of suppressed warfare in their home and they don't know if their marriage can survive the people they've become. The spark is well and truly gone from their relationship and brutally, truthfully, they aren't in love with each other anymore. But they both remember how it used to be and don't want to let that go without at least trying to recover it. So they agree to be apart for a year, not to contact each other, to focus on what they need individually in order to remember why they fell in love in the first place. Their decision isn't an easy or conventional one but they feel as if it is their only chance to save their marriage.

Told mainly through Lauren's experiences, the novel is realistic and honest about the fading of love in the face of small daily resentment after small daily resentment. Reid captures beautifully (and painfully) the building minor aggravations that chip away at the very foundation of happiness, thoughtfulness, and love and how those aggravations ultimately grow so large that they overtake any finer feeling. As their year apart progresses, Lauren reads Ryan's written and saved but unsent emails to her and starts writing her own as well. The sporadic emails allow each of the characters to safely air their grievances, the ways they feel the other has marginalized them, and the things that are so important that they have to change if there will ever be a chance to come back together again. Lauren, with the insights of her mother, her siblings, best friend, and grandmother comes to realize the many shapes that enduring love takes and she must decide if she and Ryan are fighting for happiness and to find a way back to loving each other, as opposed to being "in love" with each other, or if this year apart means that they can and should live without each other.

The emotions are so raw and so completely unadorned and truthful here that some portions of the novel are hard to read. As Lauren works back and forth through her own desires and intentions with regard to Ryan's and her future, the reader swings through foreboding, worry, and happiness all in equal measure. Watching the characters lose themselves almost completely is painful and knowing they will be forever changed at the end of their year apart no matter what their ultimate decision is is nerve-wracking. The narrative tension is consistent and the novel is perfectly paced. This is not really a romance but it is definitely a novel about love, knowing what is worth saving, what real, messy love looks like, and the importance of nurturing it before it is gone. Relatable and instructive, it is a novel worth reading for anyone who has been through the ups and downs of marriage or long term relationship.

For more information about Taylor Jenkins Reid and the book, check out her website, her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on GoodReads. Take a look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Janay from Book Sparks PR and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this review. I am definitely going to find a copy of this one. I have not read Taylor Jenkins Reid in the past, but this review makes me want to change that.


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