Title: After I Do (2014)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit
Extent: 353 pages
Release Date: July 1, 2014
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage.
She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
Taylor Jenkins Reid seems to have a penchant for taking my worst nightmares and turning them into brilliant, thought-provoking stories. While I didn’t love Forever, Interrupted or One True Loves for various reasons, After I Do finally hit (most of) the right notes with me, both in premise and execution. 🙆
Ryan and Lauren had been together for eleven years, married for six, when they realised that they were both very unhappy and resentful of each other. They decided to separate for one year with completely no contact to discover themselves. The story is told entirely from Lauren’s POV, with Ryan popping in here and there in the form of memories and emails.
“Ryan and I are two people who used to be in love.
What a beautiful thing to have been.
What a sad thing to be.”
I don’t usually like Reid’s protagonists — I didn’t understand their character, decisions or actions, and I usually found them somewhat irritating more than anything else. Not so with Lauren, who I thought was utterly sympathetic and in a predicament so realistic. I slipped into her shoes very easily and could relate to the thoughts that she thought and the decisions that she made. In a book that’s very emotionally-charged and basically about emotions and relationships, that’s very important. 💕
I found Lauren’s story with Ryan very, very relatable. No character is a ‘villain’ in this story — they were both good people, they just fell out of love and started hating each other. I don’t necessarily ‘agree’ with their solution of one-year apart (i.e. that’s not what I would do in that situation), but I can appreciate that this is the right choice for these characters, and I liked that how Reid conveyed how life was just not that black-and-white.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter if you need someone during the everyday moments of your life. Maybe what matters is that when you need someone, they are the one you need. Maybe needing someone isn’t about not being able to do it without them. Maybe needing someone is about it being easier if they are by your side.”
After I Do is not a romance, but it is a story about love, family and relationships. This book moved me in the best possible way: it made me think about my own life and reflect on it. There were a couple of things that didn’t vibe that well with me — Reid’s writing, for example, was too much “tell” than “show” for my liking, but otherwise I highly recommend this book for a bit of a serious and emotional read. 🙌