Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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.