The Astonishing Color of After
By: Emily X.R. Pan
# of pages: 462
Quote: “Nothing is right, she says. The only three words I catch. If someone had asked me, I would’ve said that everything seemed right except for my mother, who seemed totally wrong, and that in turn made everything else feel dark and stained. I would’ve carved out my heart and brain and given them to her just so she could feel right again.”
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
My review: Part of this hit close to home since it’s in part about a mother struggling with depression. So maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy this book more, it was heartbreaking at times. It was a beautifully written book, but it was hard for me to immerse myself in the story.
The story is about Leigh, who is an average teenager until her mother dies by suicide one afternoon while she’s hanging out with her best friend and crush, Axel. One day, while she’s in the midst of grieving, a package is delivered by a bird that Leigh recognizes as her mother. The package contains photographs and information about her mom’s family in Taiwan. She travels to visit her grandparents and begins a journey of making new memories with her grandparents and uncovering the memories of her grandparents and parents in the process.
The story was long and felt disjointed at times. I think it was supposed to feel that way, but it kind of lost me. But like I said before, I think part of my reluctance to read was the way it made me feel personally as a mom dealing with depression.
Why I gave this book 3/5 stars: Beautiful narrative, but a little too drawn out and disjointed.