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After You: A Novel Hardcover – August 25, 2009

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Book Description
The complexities of a friendship. The unexplored doubts of a marriage. And the redemptive power of literature... Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a haunting, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other--and ourselves.

It happened on a tree-lined street in Notting Hill to a woman who seemed to have the perfect life. Ellie Lerner’s best friend, Lucy, was murdered in front of her young daughter. And, as best friends do, Ellie dropped everything--her marriage, her job, her life in the Boston suburbs--to travel to London and pick up the pieces of Lucy’s life. While Lucy’s husband, Greg, copes with his grief by retreating into himself, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.

Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel’s winding passageways, its story of hurt, magic, and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do Lucy’s secrets--some big, some small--secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. Over a summer in London, as Ellie peels back the layers of her friend’s life, she’s forced to confront her own as well: the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape. And suddenly Ellie’s carefully constructed existence is spinning out of control in a chain of events that will transform her life--and those around her--forever. A novel that will resonate in the heart of anyone who’s had a best friend, a love lost, or a past full of regrets, After You proves once again the unique and compelling talent of Julie Buxbaum.

Julie Buxbaum on After You

After You may be aimed at adult readers, but oddly enough, it sprang from a lifelong obsession with a singular children’s classic: The Secret Garden. It seems to me that some kids’ books begin with “Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom” and some begin instead with a spoiled little girl orphaned by a cholera epidemic. I happen to like the latter kind. Frances Hodgson Burnett in her masterpiece, The Secret Garden, is not afraid of illness, or indifferent uncles, or even mean little girls. And yet, despite the darkness at its edges, her work manages to capture more magic and lightness than all of those other “once upon a time” and “they all lived happily ever after” books combined. Her characters’ happiness is always hard-fought, and well-earned, and best of all, she introduces us to places and people who feel real--the at once menacing and alive moors of England, the country’s spectacular gardens, a young girl feeling alone and lost in the world in the wake of tragedy.

But I realize I am supposed to only talk about my second novel, After You, here. And yet, I can’t seem to talk about After You without first paying tribute to Frances Hodgson Burnett, because After You is, among many other things, a love letter to The Secret Garden. In After You, when Ellie, my main character, discovers her best friend Lucy has unexpectedly died, she drops her own life in the Boston suburbs to move to London to help take care of Lucy’s eight-year-old daughter. Overwhelmed by little Sophie’s grief, Ellie turns to the children’s classic for comfort, an opportunity for them to escape the real world at a time when they need to most. Together, Ellie and Sophie get lost in Burnett’s magical language, and allow themselves the pleasure and the relief (and yes, the therapy too) that only reading can sometimes bring.

And so like The Secret Garden, After You, doesn’t begin with “Once upon a time,” and nor does it end with “happily ever after.” Yet, like the Burnett classic, it is at heart a happy book, one where we get to watch loves lost and gained, see our deepest selves discovered, experience the power of redemption, and understand the magic that can be found in turning the pages forward. To be honest, sometimes, I don’t feel like spending my afternoon in a faraway kingdom; I’d much rather rediscover the simple pleasure of reading in the garden. --Julie Buxbaum

(Photo © Indy Flore)

From Publishers Weekly

Like her debut, The Opposite of Love, Buxbaum's second novel concerns a woman struggling with devastating loss. When American ex-pat Lucy Stafford is killed by a mugger, her lifelong best friend Ellie Lerner drops everything to fly to London. Ellie stays on after Lucy's funeral to care for her friend's eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who witnessed her mom's violent death and has since retreated into silence. Ellie also worries about Lucy's husband, Greg, who confesses that he can barely even look at his daughter; her own divorced parents' on-again, off-again relationship; and her long-suffering husband, waiting for her in the Boston suburbs. Ellie finds London as much a refuge as a place of mourning; she's been unable to move past the birth of a stillborn child and feels the need to borrow Sophie. As she uncovers more of Lucy's life, Ellie finds her own spinning out of control, and soon she's forced to reassess even her deeply held certainties. Buxbaum skillfully handles this tale of grief and growing, resonant with realistic emotional stakes and hard-won wisdom. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press; 1 edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385341245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385341240
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 10.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,094,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julie Buxbaum is the author of The Opposite of Love and After You. Her work has been translated into eighteen languages, and The Opposite of Love has been optioned to film with Anne Hathaway set to star. Julie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. She currently lives in London where After You is set. For more information about Julie or her books, please check out her website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By TrishNYC VINE VOICE on July 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
About a hundred pages into this book, I was wondering how I got caught reading chick lit (nothing against chick lit) and one with a very unlikable main character. BUT somewhere along the way, I was pleasantly surprised by the turn the book takes and I found myself engrossed.

Ellie's best friend Lucy has just been brutally murdered while walking her daughter to school. Ellie flies out to Notting Hill to comfort her husband Greg and daughter Sophie. She is overcome with grief at the death of her closest friend and she deals with her grief by wrapping herself in Sophie. They read The Secret Garden together as Ellie tries to get Sophie to begin speaking again, something she stopped doing after her mother's death, and as a way for Sophie to lose herself in a world outside of her present one that contains mostly grief and the violence of her mother's death.

My problem with Ellie was that as admirable as her flying half way around the world to help her dead friend's family may have been, she abandons her husband under the guise of "Sophie needs me". I found myself rolling my eyes through at least 100 pages as it was hard to believe that this devotion to Sophie was totally selfless. There was something in there that felt very self centered and exceedingly selfish. What kind of person abandons their job and husband for an untold amount of time and expects everyone to just understand?

But somewhere along the way as Ellie becomes more honest with herself, I began to understand her better and feel more compassionate toward her. It was obvious that she idolized her friend Lucy and in her mind Lucy had the perfect life: beautiful, rich and handsome husband, intelligent daughter, fabulous job and living in one of the best parts of London.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By skrishna VINE VOICE on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Julie Buxbaum's The Opposite of Love was one of my favorite books of 2008. I'm a huge fan of Buxbaum's writing, so when she told me that she had a new book coming out in August, I couldn't wait to read it. I was a little nervous because I had very high expectations, but I shouldn't have worried. After You is a thoughtful and touching book that I couldn't put down.

I loved so many things about After You that I don't even know where to start. The character of Ellie was wonderfully written. I sympathized with her completely - her panic at the death of her best friend Lucy, her unconditional love for Lucy's daughter Sophie, and her inability to move on with life after the death of her unborn child, Oliver. Though we are in very different places in our lives, I saw a lot of myself in Ellie, a lot of my own hesitation and fears. I think that is what I love most about Julie Buxbaum's writing - her ability to develop three-dimensional characters that are completely real.

I also really enjoyed Buxbaum's use of the children's novel The Secret Garden in order to help Sophie overcome her grief at her mother Lucy's death. As a child, I absolutely loved The Secret Garden. But more than that, Buxbaum's premise that books can help us cope, even in the darkest times, really spoke to me. It wasn't just Sophie who healed through The Secret Garden; Ellie used it as a way to deal with her grief as well. That was a wonderful message that permeated through the book.

Additionally, Julie Buxbaum's writing is absolutely beautiful. She has a way with words that is difficult to describe, so I'm just going to share some passages here with you.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Sanders VINE VOICE on October 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Let me start by saying that I haven't finished the book yet. I don't have to finish it to know how I feel about it and I LOVE it. Other reviewers tell you what the story is about so I won't repeat it.

I don't have alot of time to read, I have a very active 2 year old but I've been picking it up when he goes to sleep and I find myself very much looking forward to it even though that means I don't get to watch the news.
I've never read this author before but I will most definitely look at her other books. This is so emotional and it pulls you in. I almost hate to go to bed when I want to read! It's been a really long time since I've read a book that had that effect on me.

This story is so emotional, I can "see" the characters and Sophie is a beautiful, struggling little girl. I want to hold her and soothe her, I want to hug Ellie and thank her for taking care of a child who isn't her responsibility. I can't wait to get even further into this book but I'm not looking forward to it ending.
I'm so glad I chose this book to read, I love to read and this book is a good example of what a great book should be.

I just finished the book. It's a GREAT book, probably the best I've read in a few years. I didn't see the way it ended coming at all and it's good to have a surprise once in a while! I wish it went on and on, letting me watch Ellie's life unfolding even further. I will definitely hold onto this book so I can read it again later. Love it!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. D. Fischer VINE VOICE on October 21, 2009
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I stayed up late three nights in a row reading this book, and the sleep deprivation was worth it. I had trouble putting it down.

The author examines the effect of the murder of Lucy on the various people in her life in a very natural and believable way so that the reader empathizes with the loved ones who she left behind. This includes her eight year old daughter, Lucy, who witnessed the murder; her perfect-on-paper husband (on whom she was cheating); and her best friend since elementary school, Ellie, who is the book's narrator.

We learn that Ellie didn't know Lucy as well as she thought she did and struggle with her as she tries to help Lucy's daughter cope with the loss of her mother. We also learn of the problems in Ellie's marriage and the tragedy that haunts her and her husband. Stories about Ellie's family, including her parents who are dating again after divorcing, provide a quite a few light moments within the story of how the people in Lucy's life collect themselves and try to move forward.

I was initially drawn to this book since I read the The Secret Garden too many times to count when I was little. I liked how Ellie relies on the book to reach Sophie when she withdraws immediately after her mother's murder. There are parallels between the young characters in Secret Garden and Sophie, and the message of surviving -and even surmounting- unfortunate circumstances is timeless.

The book moved me to tears several times. What particularly impressed me was that the story was told in a very authentic way without being maudlin or overly depressing.

I strongly recommend After You: A Novel and will lend my copy to my best friend (who I know will also love it).
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