Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Now Jem is back at work part-time as a talent agent. Ralph, a successful painter, is struggling to come up with new, hopefully groundbreaking, work for his upcoming show. But the unimaginable has happened. Two people who were so right together are starting to drift apart And in the chaos of family life, Jem feels like she's losing herself, while Ralph, stuck on the sidelines, feels like he's lost his muse altogether. Something has to change. As they try to find a way back to each other, back to what they once had, they both become momentarily distracted—but maybe it's not too late to recapture happily ever after… -- Atria
About eleven years ago, I read Lisa Jewell's novel RALPH'S PARTY and just adored it. This was a phase for me when I was reading a fair amount of British chick lit, and I thought RALPH'S PARTY pretty much summed up what I enjoyed about this genre. The characters, the humor, and the love story were all fantastic! I can even remember where I was when I finished reading the novel, and I can't say that about too many books that I read that long ago. (I was in New Orleans on a tour bus if you're interested!)
So when I learned a few months ago that Ms. Jewell had finally written a sequel to RALPH'S PARTY called AFTER THE PARTY, I knew I had to read it. Evidently, I wasn't alone with my adoration of the book and fans have been asking Ms. Jewell for many years to write the story of Ralph and Jem's lives. I think many readers felt so close to Ralph and Jem and just wanted to know what happened to them and if their relationship made it. Of course, I was hoping that they lived happily ever after, but that probably wouldn't make for a very interesting sequel!
So AFTER THE PARTY picks up eleven years after Ralph and Jem realize that they are madly in love with each other. Ralph is having a moderately successful career as an artist and Jem is working in public relations. They never married, but they do have two small children together. They appear to still love each other, but their lives aren't exactly picture perfect. Both Ralph and Jem are far from content and they seem to be moving apart from each other. And the chaos of having two small kids to the mix and Ralph and Jem find themselves questioning if they should stay together.
I definitely enjoyed AFTER THE PARTY and I felt like it did a great job of exploring what happens after the novelty of new love wears off. You know, when life throws you a few curve balls and you have lots of responsibilities; and things aren't always happy-go-lucky. It's a sad situation, but one that is probably very realistic. There is no doubt that relationships do change throughout the years, and I think many people will be able to relate to both Ralph and Jem's viewpoints in this novel. (Or if they don't personally relate, then they will at least know a friend or two that will!)
My heart went out to both Ralph and Jem because I hate to see a relationship end (especially when kids are involved.) And I do remember how very much they loved each other only eleven years ago. Even though I am a mom, I found that I could relate to both of them (notice I didn't say agree with both of them!) I did understand Ralph's frustration with Jem and how much she changed after becoming a mother, but I also understood why Jem wanted to wring Ralph's neck. It was a huge misunderstanding and I just felt as if someone could get them together and sit them down for a chat, then they might remember how much they loved each other.
Overall, I really liked AFTER THE PARTY and I appreciated how the story ended. The novel might have been a little predictable, but I admit that I would have been disappointed if I had ended any differently! And of course, I enjoyed the humor and wit of the characters -- Ralph especially still cracks me up. I will say that I thought the book was a bit on the long side at almost 450 pages. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that I got bored with it, but I do think it could have been about 50-75 pages shorter without losing much of the story. There were a few times where I got fed up with Ralph and Jem's self absorption and was kind of like, "enough already."
I do think AFTER THE PARTY would make a fun discussion book especially among women who are around the same age as the characters (mid 30s or so.) I think readers who have read RALPH'S PARTY would probably appreciate AFTER THE PARTY a bit more than those who haven't; however, it isn't necessary to read them in order. There is a reading guide available that touches upon some pretty heavy topics. Some of the things you might want to explore include the setting, commitment, art, parenting, marriage, adultery, sacrifice, abortion, and choices.
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.