Have you ever read something so wildly good, you finish it and are almost out of breath?
That’s The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, a stunning novel of love, loss, and rediscovery.
Goodreads Synopsis: “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.”
Magical realism is one of my favorite genres of narrative fiction. Hit me with some Isabelle Allende, a little Toni Morrison, and then a spattering of Gabriel García Márquez and I will be in book heaven. After reading this I can confidently add Emily X.R. Pan into that excellent company.
Leigh’s struggle to find both her sense of self and place in this world after her mother’s suicide along with a burning desire for answers surrounding her mother’s mental health feels so relatable in this current climate. (The CDC reports that as of June 2018 suicide rates have increased 30% across the country) and while it feels as though mental health is something we as a society are learning to more frequently openly discuss the realities of living with a loved one with mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder, etc) can be devastating. This book so accurately portrays that brutal struggle, I found myself a little weepy.
Her time in Taiwan and forays into her family’s memories are vividly depicted, while deftly being interwoven with the fantastic.
I also loved the emotional shorthand between Axel and Leigh, each time they questioned what color they “felt” I fell a little more in love with the idea. This was one of the best parts of my September library haul, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Emily X.R. Pan.
Would I recommend this book? Yep, can we talk about how you need to be reading this right now? Did you buy it yet?
**If you can’t stand Magical Realism and are unwilling to suspend your disbelief I suggest you look elsewhere.
5/6 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
You can find it here on Amazon, let me know what you think! https://amzn.to/2Oh4Slq