Review: Between Before and After by Maureen Doyle McQueery
“The carnage began with the roses. She hacked at their ruffled blooms until they dropped into monstrous drifts of red on the parched yellow lawn … Only two things kept my mother grounded to us: my uncle Stephen and stories.”
Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions.
Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future.
Told in dual narratives between 1918 New York City and 1955 San Jose, California, Between Before and After, by award-winning author Maureen McQuerry, explores the nature of family secrets, resiliency, and redemption. This is an historical coming-of-age Young Adult story about the complex bonds between mothers and daughters.
I’m not sure why this book didn’t immediately take to me. The foundation of the story, the setting, characters and plot was good but I only found myself deeply in the book about midway where it came alive for me.
Between Before and After, the reader is told it’s story through dual time perspectives which I really appreciated. One perspective told through teenage Molly at the present and the past told through her mother Elaine. I feel through Elaine’s perspective, we are learning about the past. Some moments I wish could’ve been explored more because it felt like something was left out or we rushed right buy. Molly’s perspective helped us understand who Elaine was and why she feels the way she does through the past. Getting to know their lives this way gave us a backstory and a overall perspective on who they were.
In hopes to learn more about Elaine, Molly decided to look into her past. When she discovered something hidden, she decided to put up ad to get any information. Not knowing what it would uncover, when an accident occurred, the past collided with the present leaving opening secrets that had consequences that would change their lives forever.
I thought it was a beautifully written story with several memorable moments. There were moments that I wish we could’ve learned more to experience more of their journey. I thought it was a wonderful addition to the book embedding snippets from Hansel & Gretel in there. Despite a couple of my thoughts, I will recommend this book for you to consider.