Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Life After Yes

Summary: This is the story of Quinn—born Prudence Quinn O'Malley—a confused young Manhattan attorney who loses her father on that tragic September morning that changed everything. Now, at an existential crossroads in her life, Quinn must confront impossible questions about commitment and career, love and loss. Her idealistic beau desperately wants a wedding, and whisks her away to Paris just to propose. But then Quinn has a dream featuring judges and handcuffs and Nietzsche and Britney . . . and far too many grooms. Suddenly, her future isn't so clear. Quinn's world has become a minefield of men—some living, some gone, and traversing it safely is going to take a lot more than numerous glasses of pinot grigio. 

Life After Yes is a blisteringly honest, thoroughly modern tale of life and love in chaos, marking the arrival of a truly exciting new voice in contemporary fiction.-- Avon

When I first picked up LIFE AFTER YES by Aidan Donnelley Rowley, I immediately noticed how gorgeous the cover was. I do love that dress! The next thing I did was turn over the book and read the description, and I became even more intrigued -- I love "coming-of-age" stories. And even though Quinn appears to be all grown up -- she has a great career and she's engaged, she is obvious struggling in her life and trying to cope with some major baggage like losing her father on 9/11 and still having some feelings towards her ex. The premise sounded promising and I was hoping that it was one of those stories about a woman finding herself and some happiness.

LIFE AFTER YES definitely lived up to my expectations. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how deep this novel was. I wasn't exactly expecting chick lit (not that there's anything wrong with that!) but LIFE AFTER YES dealt with some very heavy issues such as death, loss, grief, depression, infidelity, and drinking problems to name a few. The book definitely wasn't a light read for me, although there was certainly humor woven into the story. At times, I felt bad for Quinn and her miserable existence; however, other times, I wanted to shake her until she woke up and realized the good things that did exist in her life. Overall, I just felt bad for how lost she seemed.

One very positive thing about LIFE AFTER YES was the writing -- it was fantastic. In fact, I was very surprised to discover that this book is Ms. Rowley's debut novel because I felt that her prose was very sophisticated. I have to admit that it took me a little while to really get into the story and the character of Quinn, but I think that was due to my busy schedule this time of year. Once I became vested in Quinn, the story really took off for me.

Ms. Rowley's writing style was different than most other books that I read (by different, I mean very good and very original.) Not only did she tell a great story, but she was able to effectively go back and forth between the present and the past. I think what impressed me the most about her writing though was her character development of Quinn. Quinn was a highly flawed character, but Ms. Quinn was able to make her so complex and so incredibly honest. I can guarantee that anyone who reads this book will not be able to easily forget Quinn.

Another thing that really stood out to me about LIFE AFTER YES were the various symbols and recurring themes that Ms. Rowley incorporated into the novel. I was extremely surprised (and impressed) with how well these worked in this story. For example, the book begins with a dream sequence about Quinn on her wedding day. Throughout the novel, the reader, along with Quinn, begins to understand what each part of the dream symbolizes. Another example of a theme that occurred throughout the book was the importance of names. Quinn's real name was Prudence (another huge theme here about the virtues of modern society!), yet she chose to go by Quinn despite hurting her parents' feelings. In addition, there are multiple references to black berries as they pertain to both the communication device as well as the fruit. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Ms. Rowley's use of themes was very smart and definitely gave me something to think about.

I'm fairly confident that every person who reads LIFE AFTER YES will be left with many thoughts running through their head. And that's exactly why this novel is such a fantastic book club selection. There is an outstanding reading guide which has 22 questions. The sheer length of this guide is a great indicator of just how much there is to discuss. Some of the topics you will want to further explore include 9/11, grief, loss, love, marriage, infidelity, secrets, dishonesty, alcohol problems, friendship, career, forgiveness, parent/child relationship, self actualization -- this list could go on and on.

The SheKnows Book Club will be discussing LIFE AFTER YES with Aidan Donnelly Rowley on Thursday, December 9th at 8-11pm ET. I'll be there and I'd love for you to join us.

I am very happy to say that in many ways LIFE AFTER YES was a coming-of-age story to me. This novel did explore Quinn's state of mind and her discontent, and it followed her as she examined herself and others. Fortunately, she did mature a great deal and I was very satisfied with how the book ended (but I won't guarantee that will be the case for every reader.) I highly recommend this book to fans of women's fiction as well as book groups.

Thanks to SheKnows Book Club for sending me a copy of this book.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the dress too! Interesting about the blackberry imagery!

Anonymous said...

I've just read quite a few really great reviews of this. I think it may need to make my holiday vacation reading list. I'm not usually a "chick-lit" fan (not, as you said, because it's bad; simply that it's just not my many books, so little time!) but this one seems to be referred to, over and over again as "deeper" and somehow different. Also, like everyone else, I'm crazy about the cover! :O)

Shonda said...

Excellent review! I recently purchased this for my Kindle. Like you, I immediately was attracted to the cover. After reading the description, I knew it would be a book I would enjoy. Finding one's way after tragedy is difficult, but necessary. It sounds like the author really captures this journey.

As much as I love reading chick lit, I also like reading chick lit with depth.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like my kind of book! I have to say that I can understand the character's reluctance to go by Prudence, even if it did hurt her parents' feelings.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Like iwriteinbooks, I have heard so many good things about this book...this sounds like a great book to take with me to Florida in a few weeks. Thank you!

Karlie said...

This cover immediately caught my eye. The dress is gorgeous! It sounds like a good read too.

Sandy Nawrot said...

The title does make it sound like it could be chick-lit, so I could see this one being passed over. But dealing with issues like loss, especially due to 9/11, is a pretty big subject. Sounds like a great book to discuss with book groups!

Beth F said...

This one looks like it *might* work for me, but I'm just not sure. I doesn't sound like most women's literature. Perhaps one for the library in case I can't finish it.