Fresh from a weekend in Paris and with a sparkly new engagement ring on her finger, lawyer Prudence Quinn O’Malley should be floating on cloud nine — dancing through the streets singing Disney tunes, twirling in a fit of ecstasy, calling everyone she knows to squeal and cry and start planning every minor detail.
But the reality is that while madly in love with Sage, a kind-hearted i-banker with whom she lives in New York City, Quinn is plagued by doubts as to what this new “yes” — to a new life, a new world, a new marriage — really entails.
Still grieving the loss of her father, a barrel of a man who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Quinn feels adrift. As a high-powered lawyer at a major firm, she’s used to being rational — examining the evidence, gathering as much information as she can. And as Quinn begins to take a hard look at what her life has become and what it means to love, lose and move forward, she runs headfirst into an emotional journey that will change everything.
Every now and then, a novel like Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes finds its way into my life, and it’s moments when I’m reading a book like this — where I feel like my own face is reflected back at me — that I experience what I can only call literary magic.
Maybe it’s that Quinn is a mere two years older than me, grappling with mortality and love and “prudence,” with safety. Maybe it’s that the book is set and firmly ensconced in New York City — and I started it on the train ride back from a long weekend there. Maybe it’s that, as I was reading last night, I had my own “Sage” napping next to me with one arm firmly around my back. And I felt happy. And safe.
Whatever it was, I’ll say this loud and proud: Life After Yes spoke to me. Shouted at me, really, in a way that I haven’t experienced with a novel in a long, long time. For all her moral issues, uncertainties, flaws, contradictions and need for direction, Quinn — or Prudence, as some know her — felt like a real person. Human. Blood. She felt like me.
I sped through this novel in record time, unwilling to put it down, and found myself dog-earing passage after passage about happiness, love, moving forward. Rowley’s prose was deft and poignant, always striking the perfect balance between telling and showing. Nothing is worse than a book that’s all thought and no action, a story where I’m told to care about the characters simply because it’s easier for the author.
This wasn’t that book.
Two of my favorite quotes, because my review can’t — and won’t — do this excellent book justice:
Growing up doesn’t just happen. It’s not a fact; it’s a decision.
This is how happiness comes — in small moments, in fierce flashes. It’s not a state of being, not remotely permanent.
What could have become a sad, maudlin tale — especially given Quinn’s emotional vulernability — became, instead, a story of perseverance, of unexpected moments of joy, of choosing happiness instead of just waiting for it to wash over you. Life After Yes also served as a big “screw you!” to conventional ideas about what our lives “should” be — filled with prudence, balance, careful thinking — and not being afraid to take the giant leaps. Those are the ones that matter.
Do I sound silly, over-the-top and way too excited about this book? Probably. But that’s just because I feel silly, over-the-top and excited just thinking about it. It’s rare to find a novel that seems to stretch its thin, cool fingers into the cockles of your heart and pull out every little thought and doubt you have in there, but Aidan Donnelley Rowley did that. For me.
Fans of women’s fiction, family dynamics, contemporary fiction, just plain good books — pick this one up. I think she’ll do that for you, too.
5 out of 5!
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours