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Before Ever After: A Novel Paperback – May 29, 2012
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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.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was a lot of fun to read. There were moments of laughter and sadness and it kept me entertained the entire time. Love stories can be quite boring and over played. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Bree Ann Anderson
I like fairy tales. I like magic realism. This was a good read with historical references I enjoyed. Read it rather quickly as I fell under the spell of the story.Published 9 days ago by G Goodwin
Life is really pretty strange. I don't really like to work that hard when I sit down to read a book. I would have preferred for Shelly to find Max and react to his explanation. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Anna Belle Nihart
Don't waste your time. No (cardboard) character development, no meaningful writing. It's hard to even find the requisite number of words to submit this review.Published 11 days ago by Time Traveler
i quit reading it - pages, words, paragraphs were missing; words were misspelled to the point that I had to stop & figure out which word made more sense, etc. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Carole
Awesome book that I could not put down. I loved the stories Max told in their journey and how it all came together. Loved it.Published 13 days ago by Deceree
I really enjoyed this book, though it is quite different from my usual choices. I did not know when I bought it that it was part fantasy. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Carol
A delightful start led to too much back story. I lost interest rate n the characters. Readable but ech!Published 15 days ago by Joyce A. Williams