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What Came Before

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  38 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A literary suspense novel sparked by racial tensions and family history: Fed up with being tied down by twenty-five years of domestic bliss and everyone's expectations, Abbie Palmer is struggling to assert some independence from her husband Craig and find her creative self. When he tells her, "No man is an island," she flings back, "That's exactly what I want to be, an isl ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published April 7th 2014 by Every Day Novels
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Christopher Allen
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm one of those people who have to get up during a movie to go to the bathroom, but if What Came Before by Gay Degani had been a movie, I would have probably wet myself. So glad it was a book.

It's a very good book and an excellent whodunnit. I needed to know. I wanted to flip to the end, but I reined in that urge.

What Came Before is also a personal, character-driven story about a woman at a crossroads. Her uncertainties and her imperfections fuel this story on one level while the mystery plays
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I was asked to blurb this book, and this is what I said:

What Came Before is a remarkable achievement – a smart, fast-paced mystery that asks important questions about identity, family, and race. And, like the best of its genre, it’s loaded with puzzles: What really happened on the day Abbie Palmer’s mother killed herself? Who is the mysterious woman who shows up on Abbie’s doorstep, and why would anyone want her dead? What will it take to reconcile Abbie with her husband? Gay Degani’s prose is a
Susan Tepper
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that drew me into its physical and psychological landscape quickly. I was enamored of the setting and the characters, in particular, Abbie, who charmed and terrified me in equal measure, though initially I couldn't put my finger on why. Then as I continued to read, I felt she was a mirror for many of my own feelings and that was a freaky thing to experience. It made the book come alive for me in a very personal way and raised the stakes. If things worked out well for her, I could ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A woman who lost her Hollywood starlet mother to suicide when she was a small child, finds herself embroiled in the murder mystery of a half-sister she never knew she had. Determined to find answers and with her now motherless niece in her charge, she embarks on her own investigation and finds herself drawn ever deeper into danger. Fast-paced and sharply written, with unforgettable characters, this novel by Gay Degani will grab hold and not let go. A terrific read!
Syrie James
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fast-paced, compelling whodunit/family saga that grabs you and won’t let go. I loved it!

Abbie Palmer is at a crossroads in her life. Feeling overwhelmed by 25 years of marriage and family obligations, she’s just taken her first tentative step toward independence, hoping to “find her creative self,” when a woman appears on her doorstep insisting she’s her half-sister. It’s an impossible claim—isn’t it? After all, the woman is black, whereas Abbie is white. Abbie has spent a lifetime fending off
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you have not sampled Ms. Degani's work before then there are plenty of opportunities to do so for gratis so that you know what you are in for. She is a talented author with a complete understanding of what moves a story forward and engages the reader. What Came Before will pull you in and keep you turning the pages well past your bedtime. Hard to talk about it in more specific terms without risking spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.
Erin Cole
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been a fan of Gay Degani’s work since reading her flash fiction online and the excellent collection of works in, Pomegranate Stories. Degani’s style is raw, powerful, complex, and elegant. She knows how to execute conflict in her characters flawlessly and deliver compelling, original stories to ground them in. In her first novel, What Came Before, I’m even more convinced Degani is a hidden treasure.

Meet Abbie Palmer, a woman seeking peace and disconnection from a past that’s been following
D.J. Adamson
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I crept down the dark hall to y room. At the door, I froze. My only refuge had been torn apart. Drawers bulged from their sockets. Clothes were heaped over scattered shoes, underwear, books. The mattress titled sideways across the bedroom, its sheets like white flags. The magazines, the photos, the scrapbook I’d pasted together by flashlight—almost everything I’d squirreled away about my mother—had been ripped apart and strewn across the floor.

Gay Degani's novel What Comes Before deserves a time
Bonnie Schroeder
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A literary mystery with a very sympathetic protagonist, this book is full of suspense and surprises. Abbie Palmer, who is wrestling with a troubled marriage, has a lot of her plate already when a stranger shows up at her door and leaves a message: “Your mother is my mother.” Since Abbie’s mother committed suicide when Abbie was a child, huge gaps exist in her knowledge of her mother’s life. Mysteries unfold within mysteries as Abbie chases the truth, and her world turns unexpectedly violent. Her ...more
Jennifer Chow
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
What Came Before reminds me of the old serialized novel. I have a lot of admiration for Degani who was able to make short chapters (1000 words or less) into a cohesive whole. I really enjoyed the historical references that are brought up in this book, and the very authentic L.A. setting. Kudos to Degani for researching and working for 12 years to complete this manuscript.

I had a hard time connecting with Abbie Palmer, who is the flawed protagonist. However, I enjoyed watching her character arc,
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
a page turner for me, each chapter ending with me hanging between continuing on and pausing to live my own life. Gay reveals and withholds in a push-pull tension that kept me from really knowing -- there were details below the details that were revealed later.

Won't give it all away, but the writing will keep you engaged as you learn "What Came Before"
Nancy Cole Silverman
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not only was this a book I couldn't put down, but it's a book I keep thinking about once I had finished. Superbly written with twists I never would of have imagined. Thank you, Gay Degani, for a wonderfully written story.
Len Joy
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This a fast-paced entertaining story that combines elements of a good police procedural with a family mystery. It has great pacing. The main characters are well-drawn and believable. I cared about Abby and Mackenna and I kept turning the page to find out what happened. It’s a good story.
Will Zeilinger
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting mystery, lots of insight into the characters personalities. Written in present tense,well done.
Joy Llewellyn
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Terrific writing. It's such a pleasure to sit down with a book that makes it hard to put down. I want to read more by this very skilled story teller.
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed Gay Degani's literary suspense novel, What Came Before. Degani is the author of the well-regarded collection, Pomegranate Stories, and is editor-emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles. She is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly as well. What Came Before is a "novel in flash," told entirely in chapters of three or four pages. This self-imposed constraint on structure serves the novel very well, accentuating the fast pace of the storyline, which deftly juggles murder, prejudice, an ...more
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Susan Tepper
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Gay Degani has had three of her flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Glass Woman Prize. Pure Slush Books released her collection of stories, Rattle of Want, (November 2015). She has a suspense novel, What Came Before, published in 2014, and a short collection, Pomegranate, featuring eight stories around the theme of mothers and daughters. Founder and editor emeritus o ...more

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