Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: Before Ever After

by Samantha Sotto

Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max; same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose; he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.

As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem; how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down; if it is really Max and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.(Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This was an interesting premise that really delivered! Shelley is still trying to recover from her husband's death. Barely hanging on three years later, her entire life changes when Paolo shows up at her door, claiming that her late husband was actually his grandfather. Is he crazy? Could it be true? If so, why hasn't Max tried to contact her?

During their journey to track Max down, Shelley recounts how they met. Piecing together the tales he told to his European tour groups with their memories of life with Max, Shelley and Paolo try to figure out the man they both loved. I found the stories told to the tour group more fascinating than Shelley's and Paolo's journey, but the entire book was enthralling!

Really liked Max and his stories. From the doomed Isabelle to the lusty Adrien to the mad Uri, all the way back to pregnant Livia, their stories really came alive. Just who was Max anyway? And how did he know all of these stories? Was he a fan of history, or just a talented storyteller with a great imagination?

Gave this one a 4/5 as it was well written, kept me guessing, and was full of believable characters. I enjoyed the history as well, and who knew that chickens played such an important part in so many major events? This is a remarkable story by a very talented writer, and I can't wait to read more!


  1. How curious that the side stories within the actual story stole the show! I suppose we can chalk that up to great supporting characters...or at least that's my view. ^_^ INteresting read, great review....not certain it's for me, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Thanks for sharing...and happy reading!

  2. Hmmm...I haven't seen this one. It sounds interesting. Thanks, Alexia! :-)

  3. High praise indeed, and I'm intrigued by your comment about chickens.

  4. This is one I've just been dying to read!!! I recently got it. I also really liked the premise!

  5. Based on the cover alone, I wouldn't have read this book. After reading your review though, I'm itrigued enough to give it a try.

  6. GMR - Almost all of the characters in this one were great! Even to members of the tour group!

    Shannon - Very interesting! Hope you give it a chance!

    Petty Witter - Max and his chickens made me laugh!

    Steph - Looking forward to seeing what you think about this one!

    Ryan - I know we're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but it's hard not to!

  7. This sounds like a good read. I remember when you posted in your mailbox post.