Life in the Fast Lane

A TRIATHLETE'S MULTISPORT ADVENTURES, TRAVELS, RANDOM MUSINGS, AND CHRONICLES OF HER OTHERWISE ORDINARY LIFE

Book Review: "Before Ever After"

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I heard about Before Ever After months ago, after an officemate told me about it. The author, Samantha Sotto, used to work closely with some of our former colleagues. Naturally, when they found out that she had written a book, said colleagues were all over the place: "Sam Sotto wrote a book! It was published internationally! Wow! What a break for a Pinoy writer!"

This piqued my curiosity. A Filipina writer whose work was published by an international publishing house for international audiences? Wait a minute: that's my dream! (Or one of my many dreams, at least.)

So I researched on the book and its author. The plot seemed intriguing enough: it involved a love story, a journey through different eras, and a twist in between and all throughout. It seemed to be something I would enjoy reading (since historical fiction is probably my favorite genre).

The author, I found out, had a number of things in common with me: aside from the "connections" we sort of have (through our mutual professional contacts), she was a graduate of the same university I went to, and also majored in Communication. Huh.

Given all these coincidences (or not), I just had to get a copy of the book. I wanted to see what kind of writing it took for Samantha Sotto to have been able to sell it to an international publishing house (Random House, no less). Because, let's face it: it's not everyday that a Filipino author gets to sell his/her work to international audiences.


So two weeks ago, I went to the mall after work and happened to see the book on display in one of the bookstores I frequent. Without hesitating, I grabbed one copy, made a beeline for the cashier, paid for it, and sat down outside one of the coffee shops while waiting for my sister to finish her meeting.

I tried to read this book without any form of bias or preconceived notions. Never mind the fact that this was written by a Filipina who was probably sat in the same seat that I did in the Comm. Dept. of Ateneo just years before I enrolled. I wanted to approach this book the same way I start most books: without expecting anything.

With this, I dove into the adventures of Shelley, Max, and Paolo.

We begin first with the story of Shelley and Max. Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley, an American living in London, is still recovering from the loss. We catch glimpses of how they were like as husband and wife, and then we see how Shelley continues to struggle without him. A knock on the door brings her back to reality and in comes Paolo, who bears a striking resemblance to the husband she was learning to live without. Is she seeing a ghost?

No, her mind isn't playing tricks on her. He isn't Max, but he claims to be the grandson of Max despite being the same age as Max was when he died.

How is this possible?

Things get increasingly surreal as Paolo shows her a website of a resort in Boracay (Philippines reprazent!). In one of the photos, she sees what appears to be a very much alive Max running the resort. Its main attraction? Baked eggs and cheese. Exactly what Max used to prepare for Shelley.

Now I won't spoil things for you anymore (I'm hoping that my cliffhanger of a semi-synopsis will be enough to lure you into getting a copy of the book for yourself). But let's just say that the rest of the story will take you to various flashbacks through centuries, countries in Europe, and a host of characters.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I quite like the way Samantha Sotto constructs her wording (some might dismiss her style as flowery, but I'm a lover of adjectives and metaphors). In fact, her style was so descriptive that I actually felt that I've been to all the places she described, eaten what the characters ate, and sat in on their conversations.

More, I thought that she developed her characters well enough for the reader to form relationships with each of them.

I thought that some parts were a bit too long, though (especially a few of the historical backstories; I was waiting for the point of these sections to come across), and felt that the ending was rather abrupt. Then again, I never liked open endings. I genuinely hate it when books end without closure. There's this feeling of metaphysical unease, albeit on a less dramatic level.

This book may appeal to a number of people (it's gotten pretty good reviews from literary blogs as well as high customer ratings from sites like Amazon) and confuse others. Some might like her choice of metaphors and use of flashbacks and some might hate it. It seems to be one of those polarizing books that some love passionately or simply don't get.

All in all, though, I salute Ms. Sotto's maiden literary voyage and I'm looking forward to more of her writing. I'm very proud that a Filipino writer came up with this quality piece of work from her corner of Starbucks in Quezon City; I'm hoping that this gives other would-be Filipino writers the courage to pursue their dreams.

Before I end this review, though, I really need to know this: what is this baked eggs and cheese recipe of Max's? Ms. Sotto, if you come across this entry, please give me some form of closure by at least giving me the recipe. (Since I can only guess how the story ended, can I at least find fulfillment by tasting his dish?)

I'm salivating at the thought of it.

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2 comments

  1. Last month, I finished Before Ever After! I was so engrossed with story that I stayed up until 3 AM one day just to finish the book! I wanted to go so badly to Europe during and after reading the book, and hopefully, with a corporate credit card just like the author. And should God grant me a European tour one day, sana gwapo rin tour guide ko. Haha! :)

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  2. Hey, Jenny! I know what you mean! Sigh. The book fed my Europe-hungry soul even more. Praying that God grants us both a trip over there in the near future! And yes, it wouldn't hurt to have a charming tour guide, too. ;)

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