The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X R Pan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Beautiful and heartbreaking, this will definitely be one of my top 10 books of the year.

The Astonishing Color of After follows Leigh Chen Sanders in the wake of her mother’s suicide as she attempts to come to terms with what has happened and find closure. Leigh believes her mother has become a bird and travels to Taiwan to meet her estranged maternal grandparents in a quest to try and find her mother (in bird form) and discover more about the woman she was.

From the very first page the lyrical prose caught me in a kind of trance and I found myself endlessly reading. I’m amazed to see that this book is 480 pages long because I sped through it without even noticing.

I’m generally not the hugest fan of magical realism. I sometimes find that it just confuses me and makes the plot get tangled up in my head, however, in this book I found it enriched the story beautifully. Grief is such a difficult thing to explain but the magical realism mixed with the cultural Taiwanese and Chinese beliefs worked so well in exploring the subject.

The subjects of mental health and suicide was treated very sensitively and though a lot of the book was Leigh trying to reconcile why her mother comitted suicide, I also found it very moving that the book looked at Leigh’s feelings of guilt as she desperately looks back to see whether her or her Dad could have prevented this from happening.

Learning about Taiwanese culture was fascinating and I loved Leigh’s sweet developing relationship with her grandparents. I did guess the twist in the story but I didn’t feel disappointed for not having a big reveal. In fact, I was relieved that I was correct because it added to the beautiful feeling of closure I got at the end of the book.
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