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

3.9 out of 5 stars 212 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before Ever After is the type of book defies genre. It is part romance novel, part historical fiction, part travelogue, part supernatural fantasy, part fairy tale and part history lesson. Does that feel like a lot to pack into one book? Well it is! Before Ever After asks its readers to abandon logic and accept the veracity of this tale that whisks you away to other times and other worlds as seen through the eyes of one man, Max, and related by his widow, Shelley. I will not go into the intricacies of the hows and whys of their story or the lives of the other characters who flesh out the tale, instead I will merely give you my personal impressions.

Although the back story of Max and Shelley's romance, his subsequent death and her amazing discoveries about the man who was her husband, is the foundation on which the story is constructed I found the historical details most interesting. I had never thought about how the canals of Venice were constructed but learned that they was built on wood pilings most of which came from the alder forests of Slovenia and Croatia. The wood petrified as a result of the constant flow of mineral-rich water around and through it, so that it becomes a stone-like structure on which the Venetians built their city. Who knew!). Many of Max's adventures through the centuries actually sent me to my computer to research the "factual" data about Medieval Vienna, Revolutionary Paris, the volcanic destruction of Herculaneum and other historic events.

History aside, the most pressing question presented by this book seems to be that of immortality. What is it? Is it actually living forever (ala all those Twilight vampire tales) and if you could would you really CHOOSE to LIVE FOREVER? OR.....is living forever just the sum total of the contributions each and every one of us have made while we were living that ultimately become immortalized in the memories of those we love and in whose lives we have made a difference.
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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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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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