Published by Washington Square Press on July 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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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.
Plain and simple, After I Do is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a touching story about marriage, and what happens long after the honeymoon phase has ended. I suspect readers who’ve never been in a committed, long-term relationship may not be as affected by the book because it’s less about falling deeply in love than it is about slowly falling out of love. However, as a woman who has been married for twenty years and known my husband for more than half of my life, the story really resonated with me.
Taylor Jenkins Reid accurately depicts how the nature of relationships can evolve many times throughout the years. Lauren and Ryan fall madly in love when they are in college. It is eye-opening to see the small ways resentment can creep in over time without either party noticing until they’re staring at a mountain of bitterness, and they no longer recognize the passionate, irresistible partner they married.
Six years into their once vital marriage, Lauren and Ryan find themselves consumed by anger and apathy until they aren’t even sure they like each other anymore. They agree to a year of separation—a year of no contact, and the freedom to explore other romantic relationships. After a year, Ryan and Lauren will determine whether or not their marriage is capable of being salvaged or is even worth saving.
The progression of a marriage falling apart is very much like the stages of grief. The author doesn’t rush the process, and I was gratified to see the characters effectively use their time apart for diligent self-reflection. The story is told strictly from Lauren’s point of view, and yet I feel Ryan’s struggles are fairly represented. There is no villain; both parties are culpable. There really are no sides to choose. Everyone in Lauren’s life has a different opinion on how she should proceed, though, and it was fascinating todiscover how the breakup impacts her relationships with them.
This is the second book I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and in my mind it solidifies her as an adept storyteller with a fluid and expressive writing style. After I Do is probably the most honest and difficult book I’ve read about marriage. It isn’t romanticized at all. It is an unflinching portrait of a couple in crisis; of rediscovery, of commitment, of love and lust, of loss, of compromise, of holding on to what’s worth fighting for, and letting go of pride. I think it would be amazing for spouses to do a buddy read together and openly discuss the issues raised. I won’t forget this moving and remarkable novel anytime soon.
Recommended for fans of:
Stories about married couples