College sweethearts, Lauren and Ryan have been together for nearly ten years and their marriage has hit a rough patch. A long, long rough patch...For many months, the romance has fizzled and they have gone from a loving marriage, to living as roommates. Worse than living as roommates, their relationship has declined to a point where they can't stand to be around one another. They're snipping and irritable over minor things. Finally, they hit a breaking point and their feelings spill out. Rather than immediately filing for divorce, they make a pact to separate for a year and to have zero contact. They will spend the year focusing on themselves and their own needs, in hopes that it will strengthen their marriage when they reunite.
Admittedly, my above paragraph makes Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel, After I Do, sound really ridiculous. It's not though. As I was reading it, I was engaged. Lauren and Ryan feel like real people and having gone through a divorce, I found myself being able to completely relate to their situation and emotions.
Stylistically, Reid makes a strong choice with writing short chapters early in the story to build tension and to set the time line. It's punchy and keeps the intensity with regard to the pacing. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story and felt that it kept me emotionally invested in the characters. Reid keeps it simple, which keeps the story strong. Her phrasing is often simply stated and stark, which I felt was more emotional, than if she had written flowery prose. It fit the tone.
In many ways, After I Do reminds me of my favorite musical, Robert Jason Brown's The Last Five Years. It's not just that the two relate with the theme of a marriage falling apart, but that they both feel honest and real. The both have heartwarming and gut-wrenching moments. They both have rounded characters.
I really liked Lauren's family. It's impossible to read this story and not fall in love with them. Is it possible to be adopted by a fictional family?
I was left a tad dissatisfied with the ending. It wrapped up too easily and too completely. I think that I would have wanted the same ending, but to have it drawn out a little and not so easily resolved.
Overall, I felt this was a carefully rendered story of a relationship that felt true to life. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, especially if you've been through a rocky relationship or divorce. Mostly, I enjoyed Reid's writing style and I look forward to reading more of her stories.