Elizabeth's Reviews > The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
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“Once you figure out what matters, you'll figure out how to be brave.”

This is not an easy read. It pulls you into a deepening well of poetry, depression, and artistry that is very difficult to describe.

Leigh is suffering. While she struggles with balancing her feelings for her best friend, her mother dies. Sleeping pills, a sharp knife, a pool of blood. Leigh is walking through a nightmare, but she is certain her mother is still around - because her mother is now a red bird.
In the midst of grieving her mother, Leigh's father pack their bags and takes Leigh to Taiwan. Leigh has never been to Taiwan, never met her maternal grandmother, never learned Mandarin. But Leigh is certain she will find her mother, now a bird - in her mother's homeland.

CW/TW - Suicide, depression.

I first thought The Astonishing Color of After was just a contemporary. Only halfway through the book, did I realize this debut novel is so much more. Magical realism and poetry. Told through the current time, and memory, this story is deep. I don't think the emotional tension ever let up. The tension built, and built, and built, reaching this frenzy of emotion that was nearly overwhelming.

“Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.”

Sometimes, the reading of this book felt too heavy. Not to get me wrong, I read it one afternoon, but sometimes the memories melded together and it was slightly confusing. I didn't know where the story was going until long after we'd already arrived.
But I loved the way this story is told. Leigh's Mother and Father, and their fracturing relationship. Leigh's friends, Caro and Axel and their special bonds. It felt real and honest.

The most impactful part of this story? The discussion on depression. Depression isn't caused by one specific event. Yes, Leigh's mother had a hard life. And Leigh was fighting to find out why her mother was depressed - what drove her to "give up" and choose death over her child and husband. But that could not be answered. I wept for Leigh, the loss she experienced. But accepting her mother's death, knowing the grief would NEVER go away, BUT that she couldn't constantly search to find WHY was this incredible process that I loved.

“The purpose of memory is to remind us how to live.”

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Reading Progress

February 12, 2018 – Shelved
February 12, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 12, 2018 – Shelved as: spring-2018-releases
August 21, 2018 – Started Reading
August 21, 2018 –
page 106
22.94% "Already making me cry, such a moving read."
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-favorites
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-reads
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: complete-mess-of-tears-and-feels
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: contemporary
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: heartbreaking
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: melt-in-a-puddle-of-tears
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: ownvoices
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: wow
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: young-adult
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: magical-realism
August 21, 2018 – Finished Reading

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