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Friday, November 25, 2011

"Before Ever After" Novel : International Best Seller By A Pinay Author

"God, she decided as she waded away from the outrigger
that had ferried them to the island,
was selfish and this was where God hoarded
beauty like a secret stash of chocolates."
Excerpt from "Before Ever After " novel by Samantha Sotto

"Before Ever After"
An international best-selling  novel by Filipino author Samantha Sotto is turning out to be a strong tourism pitch for 
Boracay island.
Barnes And Noble Best-Selling Romance Novel

Refreshing and enjoyable read
This review is from: Before Ever After: A Novel (Hardcover)
*Disclaimers: spoilers at bay.

I was amused on how Sam stuck to the entire theme of the story, which I think delved on the "journey". More than how Max became immortal, etc., I thought how each detail was strung together to develop the journey of Max and Shelley beautifully. Though I was thirsting more about the details regarding Max's immortality, I also thought how it was more important to expound on his journey after he became immortal and midway, he came to know and love a certain Shelley who took her own journey in confronting Max's immortality. I admit, I enjoyed the story 10000x better than The Time Traveller's Wife (which I think was one of Sam's inspirations for her story). I maybe a sucker for happy endings but more than this, I appreciate how the story conveys the importance of living in the "now" and how we sojourned rather than where we will end.

Other than that, I appreciate how the settings of each place were woven together to develop the story and characters. I remember Elizabeth Kostova who also has a knack of using vivid descriptions of places, etc. The difference with Sam and her is that in the former's story, the description of the places did not go overboard. It was not as superfluous as Kostova did it in her two books "The Historian" and "The Swan Thieves". With Sam, it was just right. Just the right amount of salt and pepper to allow the reader to use her own imagination in seeing the places each character has seen.

On the downside, I got more curious about Mihael. Somehow I wonder how he himself became immortal. For a while, I thought he was Max's maker haha. Thinking in hindsight, there was quite a missing link between the vial, him, and his "reconciliation" with Max. How did Shelley ended up with another vial anyway when Max supposedly gave it back to Marija as a "donation"? Mihael seems brooding and quite mystique. But that is his allure and surely, I wanted that more developed. =) I also felt sorry for Paolo. His exit was quite swift. Nevertheless, this is about Max and Shelley so I thought it was very forgivable.

All of these said, I would like to say that I enjoyed Sam's book very much. When I started to read the book, I got giddy and excited over how Max and Shelley fell in love and how Sam played the "elephant in the room" scene as well as the "black and yellow blur". Thus I coined my opinion as "I love the far" but after finishing the story, it's not anymore of "I love the far" but rather, I love it. Period. Sam's writing style and the way she told the story was truly refreshing, to say the least. It was unconventional, as other critiques have said, which gives it is exceptional appeal. For me, it was like Sam was right in front of me and telling me the story herself. It had that personal and chummy vibe. =)

That said, I honestly admit that I am looking forward to Sam's next project. I hope it is as refreshing as "Before Ever After". =) 
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Journey
This review is from: Before Ever After: A Novel (Hardcover)
Max used to be a tour guide, but not an ordinary tour guide. He led his `campers' to unusual spots around Europe not to appreciate the sights or the food, but the history and the lives of those who once inhabited the land, walked on those fields, swam in those waters. And that's when Shelley fell in love with him, while he led her through time and attempted to teach her, and the other campers, the value of a chicken and some eggs.

Years later, Shelley is Max's widow, but one can't say she's actually alive. She survives in a daily struggle to breathe and keep a parody of the life she shared with him. Everything, however, is about to change.

There's someone at the door. She opens it.

And there is Max.

For the split of a moment, she believes herself insane. She's a prisoner of her own hallucinating mind.

But, no, that cannot be. That's not Max. That's Paolo Rossi. Max's grandson.

How can that be possible? Max wasn't more than a couple years older than herself.

Paolo brings photographs showing a greying Max, whose face never seemed to gain those unavoidable lines time gifts everyone with. That's just a detail, though. More importantly, Max may be alive. There is another photograph and there is Max, standing by his famous eggs and cheese, the blank piece of Scrabble she had given him hanging from a chain around his neck.

But why would he lie to her? Why would he make her believe he's gone?

It's time for Shelley to face reality, and a journey towards truth has never taken so long. Literally.

It's a journey which is also hard to describe, it provokes feelings words cannot express. More than a timeless romantic tale, Samantha Sotto created many lives within two, many stories within one. The settings are very vividly depicted, both with awe and appeal, not leaving room for tediousness born out of long and meaningless sentences.

The plot has a quality of rare originality - so I'll stop talking about it right now, or I'll spoil it. It suffices to say that it starts unpretentiously, but then it gets the reader back and forth in time. One minute you are travelling with Max, Shelley and the campers throughout Europe, but when you least expect it, you are immersed in the Fall of the Bastille or in a monastery somewhere. For every story Max shares, there is a different storyteller's voice in the reader's mind, and a distinguished set of characters who shine on their own and for different reasons.

Pavel and his wish to never cause pain to his mother.

Gestrin and his fear of loneliness.

Uri and his grief.

And so many others. There is a connection between these many historical figures and Shelley, a connection which, eventually, changes her life in such a way that there is no turning back.

And how does Max fit into this?

Forgive the cliché, but that is for me to know and for you to find out!

Max is a wonderfully developed character, though. He's got a very philosophical attitude towards life and how to make the best of it, a sense of humour to give the Weasley twins a run for their galleons and something else, something uniquely his, that makes him special, lovable, sensitive.

The story is beautifully brought to a close. It is simultaneously predictable and unimaginable, happy and sad, bitter and sweet.

An authentic story and a talented debut writer can only make a highly recommended book.

 Barnes And Noble Reviews

"Before Ever After" has it all. The background settings are breathtaking. The story is full of mystery, romance, adventure, humor, and philosophy.all of my favorite things. The characters are real and very human. The ever twisting plot makes it impossible to put down. Shelley lost her husband, Max, abruptly, blown up by a bomb while she was on the phone with him. Three years later, Paolo knocks on her door, claiming to be her thirty-two year old husband's thirty-two year old grandson. Could Max possibly still be alive? She hastily boards a plane to the Philippines with Paolo, for the most important journey of her life. During their trip, Shelley tells Paolo the story of how she and Max met and her experience with him as a tour guide. Okay.maybe a little far out.but I loved it.

Highly Recommend!

I was completely captivated by Samantha Sotto's novel, Before Ever After. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but when I sat down to read it, it was difficult to tear myself away. I liked the character of Shelley a lot. I'm sure it's difficult to lose a spouse and I felt her journey back from the unexpectedness of Max's death was going realistically. Meeting a man named Paolo puts a wrench in her grieving process. The story moves back and forth in time, especially to the European tour Shelley took around the Continent "off the beaten track" where she first met her husband Max. The historical stories of a woman named Isabelle and her ancestors were very compelling and touched on many areas of history. I think the twists in the story would make it great for book club discussions.

Meet the Author 

SAMANTHA SOTTO fell in love with Europe’s cobbled streets and damp castles when she moved to the Netherlands as a teenager.  Since then, she has spent nights huddled next to her backpack on a Greek beach, honeymooned in Paris, and attended business meetings in Dusseldorf in the pleasant company of a corporate credit card. Before Ever After was inspired by her experiences living, studying, and traveling through Europe.  This is her first novel.