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?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.
If you really think about it, we spend a large proportion of our lives making connections with other people. Starting with your parents and family, then branching out to friends, mentors, acquaintances, and then, one of the most significant in our lives, eventually lovers or our significant others. After I Do explores the relationship that most of us may commit to in our lives: marriage. Through the lives of Lauren and Ryan, Reid wonderfully portrays a relationship that is at the brink of breakdown. Though this book centers on the brink of marriage, After I Do is filled with themes or self-discovery and exploration, a deeper understanding of love in its absence, and the meaning of marriage and family.
When Lauren and Ryan meet at college, they develop an undeniable connection, that quickly grows into something passionate, certain, and happy. As the years roll by, they share significant milestones together: they move in together, they get a dog together, and then they get married. However, after eleven years of marriage, Lauren and Ryan find themselves in their early thirties, despising each other, and undeniably unhappy. The transformation from happy to not is gradual, beginning with the small things that slowly grow into elephants in the room – and it was so terribly heartbreaking that, at times, I paused to weep.
With Reid’s splendid and profound writing, for a story so simple and seemingly ordinary, this book really moved me. Like her other books, Maybe in Another Life and Forever, Interrupted, After I Do made me feel a plethora of emotions with its quiet exploration of love and marriage. The emotional struggles and uncertainties of the book’s characters were raw and honest. Though, perhaps what moved me the most was the inevitability that people change. That no matter how much two people may love each other and no matter the happiness at the dawn of the love, things change, people change, and change can happen to anyone. There were times when the weight of a single moment in Lauren’s life would hang in the air, letting its impact seep slowly into your heart. And these moments were so, so ordinary, but they were also the subtle turning points in their lives – when they knew they loved each other or when the small tugs and strains began.
Reid portrays the nature of love and marriage wonderfully and sensitively, and never lays blame on either characters for their shortcomings. After all, After I Do is not a conversation on what relationships ought to be or what makes a relationship successful; it is a thoughtful examination of two people and their relationship with each other, one that is wholly and uniquely theirs. Lauren and Ryan’s journey and separation illuminates many truths about what it means to love someone and grow older with someone, what it means to be yourself or lose that sense of self in such an intimate relationship, and the obstacles and uncertainties of married life.
After I Do centers mostly on Lauren and her personal narrative. As well as contemplating what marriage means to her, other elements of Lauren’s life are explored, such as her relationships with her family, the meaning of family, as well as rediscovering who she is outside of her relationship with Ryan. In her year, she uncovers unspoken words hidden in the corners of her life and the things she wants and needs in a successful relationship. Unfortunately we don’t see much of Ryan’s life and his year away, but we are given small snippets of his life, leaving it to our (and Lauren’s) imagination.
Like her other books, After I Do features Reid’s undertones of appreciation for life, its beauty and its small and ordinary wonders. After I Do is a wonderful tale that portrays the nature of growing up and growing old with someone in a genuine and honest fashion. Never are the revelations within After I Do discouraging or depressing; yes, we may change and grow out of the people we used to be, but its message is ultimately hopeful and uplifting. This book is the perfect contemporary with a meaningful message, a heartfelt story, and will leave you feeling optimistic about life and its challenges.
Book Name: After I Do
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Sorry for the long overdue review, everyone! I am unfortunately down with a cold – and it’s less than a week before I go on holiday too! So in between many bear-like naps and sipping herbal teas, I managed to write this review.
Have you read any of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books? Do you want to? What do you think of Lauren and Ryan’s plan to take a year off? Let me know in the comments below!