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After You by Julie Buxbaum

Last Thursday when Lucy stopped breathing, there is no doubt that a part of me died too. The history of who I am--the accumulation of a million memories from a thirty-one-year friendship, the knowledge that at least one person in the world could see me, that at least one person in the world would always know me--has been washed empty. I picture her blood trickling between the cobblestones, and one of the most important voices in my head, certainly the most constant, goes with it.

from page 33

I spent all day Christmas reading this book. And I know I wrote in the last post that I was in dire need of a break from reading about grief and death. While that is true, this book isn't about the bleak, visceral grief felt in the wake of a loved one's death as much as it is about finding a way through the sorrow on your way back to who you were before loss came calling.

After You is the second novel by Julie Buxbaum, an American expatriate living in London. This novel is as much about surviving the death of a lifelong friend as much as it is about remembering that friendship. While the book jacket states and implies that the book The Secret Garden plays a major role in the healing process of the characters depicted in the book, that was not the case that I found.

Ellie's best friend, Lucy, is murdered one morning while she walks her daughter, Sophie, to school in their London neighborhood. Her daughter is witness to Lucy's murder and copes with the trauma by deliberately refusing to speak. Immediately Ellie leaves her home, her job and her husband in Boston to fly to London for the funeral and to support Lucy's widower, Greg, and Sophie, Ellie's goddaughter, in the wake of the traumatic loss. Each copes with the grief in their own way: Greg immerses himself in work, Sophie remains mute, and Ellie throws herself into caring for eight year old Sophie. But for Ellie this is one loss piled upon another tragic loss that has already taken its toll on her marriage just as this loss will also exact its devastation on her marriage.

Soon Lucy's secrets and betrayals in the days and months preceding her death come to light. Ellie is left to mourn a best friend she wonders how well she really knew. In the meantime Greg and Ellie form an alliance to support each other in their grief--over the death of Lucy, over the pain her lies and betrayals, and to make sure Sophie emerges on the other side of the tragedy as whole and unscarred as possible.

In the end the book is more about Ellie finding her way back, emerging from the isolation of the grief for the loss she's been bearing for the past two years than Ellie helping Greg and Sophie survive the loss of wife and mother. The ultimate question is whether Ellie's marriage can or should survive the aftermath of both these losses.

This book is available in county upon request. I recommend you check it out.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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