The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
I finished this book on 31 January 2015 and I'm still thinking about it today! I didn't go into this one terribly excited because I wasn't that keen on Forever, Interrupted but I loved it! Such great characters and plenty to think about whatever stage in life. I particularly liked that there's no 'goodie' or 'baddie. When asked about her divorce in the Sunday Times Style magazine, Monica Bellucci mused that it takes two to tango, so neither party was to blame. I feel like that applies to Lauren and Ryan's marriage too.

As I said, this book made me think a lot. When Lauren and Ryan decided to spend the year apart, I didn't think it was a good idea. A year is a long time to not have any contact with your spouse. The fact that they also agreed to see other people didn't make sense to me either. My initial thought was if you go down that route, you might as well throw in the towel. How do you come back from that? However, by the end, I wasn't so sure of my initial thoughts. Maybe Lauren and Ryan really did just need time apart but I still kind of sided with the grandma when she said why can't you just go on separate holidays or find hobbies that didn't involve each other?

It got me thinking about co-dependency versus partnership. I remember in her book Mindy Kaling said something along the lines of her parents were partners - not BFF's because they had their own BFF's. I always thought that sounded about right. I should pause for a minute and add that I'm neither married nor in a relationship so all of this is purely hypothetical thinking. However, I can only assume that when you decide this person is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, your relationship transcends BFF status, no? It's different. Lauren and Ryan seemed to do everything together. Surely even the most patient person would crack eventually if they spent nearly all of their time with the same person just going through the motions. Neither of them were making many active decisions but rather just coasting along on compromise highway glancing around for the nearest exit. I don't know, as I said, I have no experience in this area but I know I like my own space from time to time and I'm pretty sure that part of my personality won't change just because someone liked it and put a ring on it. Then again, different strokes for different folks. The one clear message is that time apart - from anything - is a good thing.

After I Do presented some really great examples of women and different views on love and relationships. First of all there was Lauren who liked having a steady boyfriend and settled down early. She's a trier - to a fault - and I sympathised with this aspect of her character. Triers are often perfectionists and all or nothing type folk and those are hard habits/traits to break. She believed in forever and she was willing to sacrifice a lot and block out some negative thinking to make sure forever happened. I admired her for that. Then there was Lauren's sister, Rachel, who was happily single (at least until it was mentioned by a family member). I could relate to Rachel too. Sometimes when you're in the zone, so busy getting on with your life - your work, your hobbies, your Netflix addiction - you don't even have time to think about being single (until a helpful family member brings it up). I admired that she was happy to pursue her dreams and didn't mind whether or not someone special came along at that moment in time. Lauren's mother on the  other hand wanted the romance stage and nothing else. Again, it was nice to see an older character with this outlook who wasn't branded a wayward mother. Finally, the grandmother was definitely in the 'til death do us part, come rain or come shine camp. I must be old-fashioned because I agreed with nearly all of her advice.

Overall, I just really liked this book. It was very thought provoking and definitely a good one if you've got a book club. I wanted to talk to people so badly whilst reading it! I'd like to read it again in ten years time to see if my views have changed.

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