We all know that the choices we make now will determine the
course of our future. But how does one decide what to do? What if
this were to happen to you: Your best friend Lucy is brutally
murdered, and her little girl, Sophie, witnesses the whole
Obviously, after the horror of watching her mother’s
lifeblood ooze away, Sophie’s needs are huge. Plus, her
father is in tatters, opting to retreat into his work and find
solace in a bottle. But you have a life, not here in London with
Lucy’s family, but in New York. Your husband is waiting for
you to come back. In truth, he has been waiting for you to come
back for a long time, since your baby died, and that was a couple
of years ago. So be honest: Are you helping Lucy’s child
because you were Lucy’s best friend, or because you lost your
own child and you want to play mother? Are you taking care of
Lucy’s bereaved husband because you don’t know how to
take care of your own?
Those are the questions Ellie Lerner is facing --- and avoiding.
Helping Sophie through each day becomes a comforting habit. When
Ellie’s husband, Phillip, breaks the news to her that he has
filed for divorce, she feels like she has been run over by a truck.
Or, more properly for her location, a lorry. How could she have not
seen this coming? Phillip has been pleading with her to rejoin
their life together, and Ellie has been absent. Her excuse:
Beautiful little Sophie needs her.
Of course Sophie needs her. What child wouldn’t
under such circumstances? Sophie makes a conscious decision not to
talk anymore. She withdraws from this world to a place inside
herself, where it seems safer. And her Auntie Ellie is patient and
loving and there for her.
Both Ellie and Sophie need to get beyond this time in their
lives. In observing how Sophie copes in her everyday routines,
Ellie discovers a wonderful, simple cure: a book, THE SECRET
GARDEN. Reading together allows them both to escape for a while,
and it begins to work its magic on Sophie. She starts to
But what about Phillip? It may seem unfair to ask Ellie to
choose between him and a traumatized child, but Ellie has forced
him into that position. She left immediately upon hearing th e news
of Lucy’s death, flew to London for the funeral --- and to
help out. But Phillip never expected her to stay on. For weeks.
Without any promise of coming home. In fact, quite the opposite:
She leaves Phillip with a vague sort of statement that she’s
likely not coming home.
In AFTER YOU, Julie Buxbaum shows a wonderful talent for probing
emotions and examining complicated feelings. She takes her readers
deep inside the pain and loss Sophie feels, the sense of
desperation Ellie has, and the frustration Phillip experiences. How
the characters ultimately come out, well, you’ll have to read
for yourself to find that out. You can’t help but sympathize
with each of them, but keep in mind, each of them has a choice to
make. It will be tough, but that’s what life demands of
This is a book absolutely everyone can benefit from. By
listening to Sophie and Ellie and Phillip, making our own choices
can become less a crippling obstacle and more an interesting
challenge. AFTER YOU literally can change your life.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 22, 2010
- Publication Date: June 1, 2010
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
- ISBN-10: 0385341253
- ISBN-13: 9780385341257