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Before Ever After: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 2, 2011

176 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Melissa Senate Reviews Before Ever After

A former book editor, Melissa Senate is the author of ten novels, including her latest, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, which Publishers Weekly says “reinvents comfort food.” She lives on the coast of Maine.

Before Ever After is my favorite kind of book: magical. It is a book in which the every day of life, of marriage, of calling a husband to ask him to pick up something on his way home, are forever changed by the extraordinary, the unexpected, the impossible.

Three years after the death of her quirky, wonderful husband, Max, Shelley is a young widow barely able to get through the day. Until a knock on the door brings a thirty-two-year-old man who claims to be her thirty-two-year-old husband’s grandson--yes, grandson--into her life. And he tells her that her beloved husband Max is still very much alive and living halfway across the world. It sounds impossible, but that is part of the joy of this novel: it is about a search for answers to the critical, and most basic, questions about life. It is about what should be impossible but because of the transformative power of love, isn’t.

Samantha Sotto takes readers on a journey--from London to the Philippines, and all over Europe--as Shelley and the grandson set off to track down Max. Along the way, Shelley recounts the package tour where she and Max met, years ago. Anyone who has booked a EuroRail pass or tried to live out of a backpack for more than a few days can relate to Shelley’s trip, and for those who have never had the chance, this is your next best shot. Most of us, bouncing about from Père Lachaise to St. Mark’s Basilica, return home with little more than a few tchotchkes and some great stories, but for Shelley, her life was changed from the moment Max’s tour-guide flyer caught on the heel of her shoe on a windy, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life kind of day. Had this flyer caught on my shoe, I would have been on that tour bus with Max in a heartbeat too:

Fancy Getting Lost? The Slight Detour: Veer away from the unexpected and lose yourself to the back roads of history on a road trip across Europe. Not for the prissy or the daft. Nutters most welcome. Good fun and excellent egg breakfasts included.

I went on that irresistible journey with Shelley and then on several more over the course of this remarkable novel. A journey of adventure, romance, history, magic. Long after the last page of this book, that beautiful journey has stayed with me.


 “I was floored by the gutsy scope of this highly unusual love story. Before Ever After is one of those books that challenges the natural laws of fiction writing, and Samantha Sotto pulls it off in a frisky and highly entertaining way.” – Anne Fortier, New York Times bestselling author of Juliet

“I was absolutely enchanted by Before Ever After. It's a highly original and engaging mix of romance, mystery and magic that will challenge everything you think you know about happily ever after.” Jill Smolinski, author of The Next Thing on My List
"A smartly written romance, mystery and historical adventure all wrapped up in a page-turner that will have you guessing until the very end." – Adena Halpern, author of The Ten Best Days of My Life
“Exquisitely written and inventively told, Before Ever After is a beautiful, moving—and quite fun—exploration of what you think you know about your own life.” –Melissa Senate, author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School
"In Samantha Sotto's high spirited debut, a young widow travels to a remote and distant island to answer the question, what price do we pay for eternal love. It is a mesmerizing journey transcending time and continents, all to remind that there are many ways to live on forever and to immortalize a marriage. Note to readers: Curl up with jasmine tea and savor the warm, rich writing, as delectable as the recipes for love found within every enchanting page."  -Saralee Rosenberg, author of Claire Voyant


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307719871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719874
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

In an alternate universe, I am Dr. Who's faithful companion, traveling through time with him and constantly rearranging furniture on the TARDIS. I am also Oprah's best friend and Ellen's favorite Friday night poker buddy. And did I mention that I have legs that would make Giselle Bundchen hang her head down in shame? In this one, I am a five foot two rabid Dr. Who fan (I miss you, David Tennant) who still can't imagine life without the Oprah show, but is consoling herself with large doses of Ellen and bread pudding.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Southern Mississippi VINE VOICE on August 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before Ever After--the whole story is a journey, and it was one that I couldn't put down. Advertised as the story of a young widow as she travels with her husband's 32 year old grandson in search of the husband she had thought was dead, but the grandson claims is very much alive. Recounting how they had met as they travel towards the husband she thought lost, her husband's own story begins to unravel, until when you were sure you were going to find out the "rest of the story", there is yet one more twist to the tale.

From the first page to the last, the book hold's the reader's heart right in its hands, never letting go as it carries you through to the end (or is it a beginning, really?) of the tale.

It's a fantastic tale with history twisted with our modern mundane lives and seasoned by something older than time.

I'm not even a romance novel fan, and not much for mysteries either, but this was a fantastic story. I loved it, and honestly could not put it down. I lost my entire afternoon to the tale's telling, and don't regret a moment I sacrificed to it either. So grab a cup of tea (perhaps some jasmine?) and find a comfortable chair to read this book!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. Ong on August 2, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a great feel good book to read on a rainy day and you can just lose yourself in the characters and the story. What I loved about the book was how the author slowly revealed facets of Max's character through various characters from different time period and how she was able to intersperse quirky chicken facts into the story. Plus, I love the flowery words, the research and learning about little known tidbits on historical events - with my favorite being that chapter on the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius! Looking forward to her second book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sandra VINE VOICE on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Imagine the shock Shelley felt when, having been widowed for three years, she opened the door to see her husband! However, there is a plausible explanation. From this shocking opening of this book, the storyline meanders through breath-catching plots, through twists and turns, into the most wonderful and most cleverly skillful circuitous love story I have ever read.

Shelley had vowed never to fall in love. She had seen the pain that her mother had lived with since the death of her father. But it happened. Shelley loved Max, and there was no way around it! Then her ultimate dread became a reality! He died! Shelley lived as half of a person, daily mourning her loss, never figuring out how to go on without him. But the day she answers the door and sees Max's familiar face, everything changes.

This book is told in three main narrations. One narration takes place in the present day. Another is from five years ago when Shelley first met Max on a tour he was giving. The other narration is from the time period in which Max's stories from the tour took place. The latter ranged from 79 AD, the time of the violent explosion of Mount Vesuvius to 1778, during those bloody days of French revolution. Past, present, and future meld together to form a beautifully written romance with a highly emotional impact.

This book has everything! The characters are written with humor and stark humanness. The settings are breath taking, vivid, and brilliantly real. The story contains truths and realities about life and death, masked in an endearing romance story. The twists and turns of the plot make this book impossible to put down. This book is nothing short of amazing!
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Angel on August 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
*Disclaimers: spoilers at bay.

I was amused on how Sam stuck to the entire theme of the story, which I think delved on the "journey". More than how Max became immortal, etc., I thought how each detail was strung together to develop the journey of Max and Shelley beautifully. Though I was thirsting more about the details regarding Max's immortality, I also thought how it was more important to expound on his journey after he became immortal and midway, he came to know and love a certain Shelley who took her own journey in confronting Max's immortality. I admit, I enjoyed the story 10000x better than The Time Traveller's Wife (which I think was one of Sam's inspirations for her story). I maybe a sucker for happy endings but more than this, I appreciate how the story conveys the importance of living in the "now" and how we sojourned rather than where we will end.

Other than that, I appreciate how the settings of each place were woven together to develop the story and characters. I remember Elizabeth Kostova who also has a knack of using vivid descriptions of places, etc. The difference with Sam and her is that in the former's story, the description of the places did not go overboard. It was not as superfluous as Kostova did it in her two books "The Historian" and "The Swan Thieves". With Sam, it was just right. Just the right amount of salt and pepper to allow the reader to use her own imagination in seeing the places each character has seen.

On the downside, I got more curious about Mihael. Somehow I wonder how he himself became immortal. For a while, I thought he was Max's maker haha. Thinking in hindsight, there was quite a missing link between the vial, him, and his "reconciliation" with Max.
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