BOOK REVIEW: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

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From the author of Forever, Interrupted—hailed by Sarah Jio as “moving, gorgeous, and at times heart-wrenching”—comes a breathtaking new novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.

When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.

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My first Taylor Jenkins Reid book and she’s made me a rabid, obsessed fan girl. After I Do is a startling, honest look into what happens after all the good stuff—of falling in love, of saying I do, and the moment when the honeymoon ends. Lauren and Ryan’s story took every possible scenario out of all of our own marriages. It’s about two people who’ve hit “rock bottom” into their marriage and must decide how to move forward from it. And what they agree on, though somewhat unconventional for most, come to be an insightful and emotionally packed journey.

I found myself mesmerized, totally sucked into their story from the very beginning up until I turned to the last page. I was riveted by the striking simplicity of its narrative; how the author’s words just so coolly flowed throughout the whole book yet it brought out such fierce feelings out of me. It was as if she’d peered through the windows of every couple’s homes and took note of what often becomes heated arguments over the most mundane things. It’s eerie how spot on these moments were and like me, it too will resonate with many of you. What was incredibly astounding for me was the realization that Lauren and Ryan experience from these little arguments; the recognition that they had just merely fallen out of love with one another. And isn’t it sadistically funny how the brunt of our anger and disgust seem to always fall to the ones we’d promised to respect, honor, and love for a lifetime? The defeat and the hopelessness that surround them weighed heavy in my heart because how many of us have been there before?

Though this be a work of fiction, it really was far from pretending because Taylor Jenkins Reid speaks to her readers, married or not through Lauren and Ryan and this to me is what makes for a five-star book. We step into the characters shoes and we live through their pain. Their brokenness, their confusion, their whirlwind journey to finding not only themselves but somehow, in some way, their way back to each other. How does one accept that the person they love the most has become the person they’ve begun to resent and how do you live without the person you can’t stand but cannot live without?

“That’s why we haven’t been having sex. That’s why we never try and please each other. That’s why we are never pleased with each other. Ryan and I are two people who used to be in love. What a beautiful thing to have been. What a sad thing to be.”

The familial element was strong in this book as well. With Lauren, she begins to appreciate the importance of her family during the lowest point in her life. Coming from a close knit family, it made me want to pick up the phone and tell my parents and siblings just how much I treasure them. Ms. Jenkins dives deep into Lauren’s relationship with her own family. Much of this book revolves around the Spencer brood—her sister Rachel, her brother Charlie, her mom and her grandmother. I absolutely loved how they stuck with Lauren, how they gave advice though at times weren’t ones she wanted to hear. They supported her in ways that kept her heart beating, she began to pay attention to each and every one of them in a way that kept her mind busy. Through her family, she somehow re-discovers who she is as an individual, one who is without a husband whom she’d thought she could never be without but instead Lauren finds that the sun continues to rise and that life continues to move forward even without Ryan and the scary yet liberating realization that she is OK with that.

“I’m not reflecting at all, really. I’m starting to just live.”

But being just OK isn’t really what we strive for in this life is it? Through drafted, unsent email letters, both Ryan and Lauren express their regrets, their wishes for the future, and at times even lashing out their anger to one another. This form of unabashed confession, a source of therapeutic release, they somehow begin to heal. Because this book is primarily seen through Lauren’s perspective, it is through these saved, unsent emails that we really get to see how life is moving along for Ryan as well. The funny thing about it is that the author allows her readers to be invested in Ryan’s character even without having him on every page of this book. His words though few in its entirety, were powerful and meaningful. I held on to all of them, to each letter he’d written and I’d hoped that he’d fight for Lauren and their marriage.

“And it wasn’t a passing feeling. It was real. I truly felt there was a hole in my life and the only thing that could fill it was you.”

So do these two somehow, in some way find their paths leading back to one another? I can’t tell you that, it’s something you’ll need to find out for yourselves… However what I can tell you this… So many times, I shed tears for the forgotten love, for the missed opportunities of looking beyond the petty misunderstandings, and for the cruelty shown—in words and in apathetic actions. After I Do jars your emotions, it infiltrates your own private thoughts and heartaches so much so I felt almost violated because how could this author speak so truly through her work of fiction? I cannot express enough just how wonderful and prolific this book is. Intuitive, candid, and exceptionally hopeful—After I Do is one that should be on everyone’s to be read list.

“All that matters in this life is that you try. All that matters is that you open your heart, give everything you have, and keep trying.”

We Like It Big Tunes:  

Music “All I Ask” by Adele

Choreography by Will B. Bell
Filmed and Edited by Jose Omar Hernandez
Danced by Dj Smart and Zola Williams

I will leave my heart at the door
I won’t say a word…
They’ve all been said before, you know
So why don’t we just play pretend
Like we’re not scared of what is coming next or scared of having nothing left!

Look, don’t get me wrong
I know there is no tomorrow
All I ask is…

If this is my last night with you
Hold me like I’m more than just a friend
Give me a memory I can use
Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do
It matters how this ends
‘Cause what if I never love again?

I don’t need your honesty
It’s already in your eyes and I’m sure my eyes, they speak for me
No one knows me like you do
And since you’re the only one that matters
Tell me who do I run to?

Look, don’t get me wrong!
I know there is no tomorrow
All I ask is

If this is my last night with you
Hold me like I’m more than just a friend
Give me a memory I can use
Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do
It matters how this ends
Cause what if I never love again?

Let this be our lesson in love
Let this be the way we remember us
I don’t wanna be cruel or vicious
And I ain’t asking for forgiveness
All I ask is…

If this is my last night with you
Hold me like I’m more than just a friend
Give me a memory I can use
Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do
It matters how this ends

‘Cause what if I never love again?

 

 

About the Author:

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Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author, essayist, and TV writer from Acton, Massachusetts. Her debut novel, Forever, Interrupted, has been optioned with Dakota Johnson attached to star. Her second book, After I Do, was called a “must read” by Kirkus. Her most recent novel, Maybe In Another Life has been featured in People, Cosmo, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, PopSugar, USA Today and more.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @tjenkinsreid.

 

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One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. Pingback: Melanie’s Best of 2016 Picks | welikeitbigbookblog

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