The Beginning of After
By Jennifer Castle
'Sometimes my life here felt like a cage where I could never escape the pain. At other times it felt like the only firm ground on earth.'
Laurel is a typical teenager living a typical life.
She has a mum. She has a dad.
She even has a little brother.
She goes to school.
She has a best friend, Meg.
She gets straight As.
She does everything right.
One evening, when Laurel's family and the Kaufman family are having a dinner, Laurel does what she normally does.
Smiles politely whilst trying to avoid the eye of David Kaufman, her childhood friend who's probably forgotten all their history together and is far more interested in his gangster friends than her.
Teases her brother.
It is on this evening that Laurel makes a life-changing decision.
She tells her mother she wants to study and is going home early. Alone. David decides to leave too. As Laurel leaves, she waves to her family as they pile into a car with the Kaufmans to go out for icecream.
That was the last time she ever saw them alive.
An accident. A decision. Time slipping through her fingers.
Laurel's world comes tumbling down when she learns of the death of her family, and the heart-wrenching truth about Before, Now and After. How it takes one thing to turn your life into a Before.
Before the dinner.
Before the hug.
Before the smile.
Before the wave goodbye.
Before she walked away.
All there is is Now. An endless Now that stretches out too far for a teenager like her to see. Sorrow fills every part of Laurel as she tries to face a world without what she used to take for granted.
Love. Togetherness. Family.
Laurel learns how everyone grieves in their own way. And she finds herself torn on the subject of David Kaufman, whose father - the only survivor - lies in a coma he may never awake from. David's father could be the reason Laurel's an orphan.
But David could be the reason Laurel finds the strength to take her future into her own hands.
My thoughts on the book:
I personally loved the writing style.
It was descriptive, quirky and from the heart. True, it lacked poetic finesse, but this wasn't what the story was about. It was about loss. Rawness. Truth. How sometimes our own thoughts can be so simple and average that they tear us apart...we long to feel something but in order to do that we have to let the floodgates down.
I really think you need to have experienced some kind of loss to understand this book on a deeper level.
Sad, lingering and aching with loss and yet with a bittersweet touch of first love, The Beginning of After takes you by the hand and shows to you like never before the cycle of human existence, and how fleeting true happiness is.
But, above all, it shows us that we have the ability to make it love last, and to hold it forever in our hearts.