Saturday, September 1, 2012

Before Ever After

By Samantha Sotto
Broadway Paperbacks (Random House), 296 pgs
Submitted by Random House
Rating: 2.5

Shelley and Max meet on a tour of very personal and specific alternative European history. Shelley is a recent American transplant to London, trying to escape the death of her father and her mother's consuming grief, and Max is a tour guide from AD 79. Time travel and immortality are trendy in popular culture and this is yet another addition to the cannon, although this seems more like reincarnation than anything else, and as such nothing special to some belief systems.

Shelley and Max fall in love during the course of the tour, beginning in London and wrapping up in Rome. At stops along the way Max takes the group off the beaten path, telling the story of Isabelle and tracing her family history back through time, relating the personal to the historical events of the day, such as the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille to the eruption of Vesuvius and the towns preserved in ash. 

At the end of the tour Shelley and Max marry but she is made a widow before long, at least she thinks she's a widow. A young man named Paolo, Max's grandson, shows up on Shelley's doorstep one morning claiming that Max is alive and he knows where to find him. So Shelley and Paolo set out to confront Max and the truth. And of course the biggest question of all. Can Shelley become immortal? Will she or won't she?

This book bored me to tears. By the end I no longer cared who was immortal, who wasn't, or who might become so. I just wanted to get it over with so I could read something else. I did not find the characters believable, the majority were merely stereotype. The dialogue is choppy and cliched. This book could have done with a touch of sophistication. It doesn't do justice to it's locations.

It makes me very unhappy to pan a book this badly. I feel guilty. But if anyone is actually reading this then I have a responsibility. And you can do much better.

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