Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
I read this book for many reasons. The first being that I have heard nothing but rave reviews about this debut novel. The second and more important reason is that I’m going to a book event at the end of March and Emily X.R. Pan will be there, so I wanted to have read her book so that I may buy it and get it signed when I meet her. I was expecting to enjoy the book, but there were so many unexpected things inside of it.
“Memory is a mean thing, slicing at you from the harshest angles, dipping your consciousness into the wrong colors again and again.”
I was not expecting magical realism. I think this was so well done and was a great part of the story. The magical parts of the story were seamlessly blended with the contemporary parts of the story. I thought it was such an interesting and fun part of the story. Leigh getting to see and learn all of the things that she does in the way that she does was such a good way to tell her story. I also really loved the flashback aspects of the story. Many books cannot pull this off in the right way, but this story is told with flashbacks giving the reader a view into how Leigh got where she is and the events that unfolded on the way. The flashbacks didn’t detract from the story, instead added to it. The reader was pulled into the past at all the right moments giving vital information.
“Once you figure out what matters, you’ll figure out how to be brave.”
The Astonishing Color of After does an incredible job talking about mental health and depression. It talks about the struggle of depression and how there are ups and downs. It tells a story of how depression is never something that just gets better, it’s a constant up and down battle to stay level. I thought the book did an excellent job discussion depression and showing its effect on other family members.
“She was a sea creature and the music was her ocean. It had always belonged to her. It was in her every breath, her every movement. She was the color of home.”
Most of this story takes place in Taiwan. This was something I enjoyed because I felt like I was learning while reading. It’s about a place and culture I don’t know much about, so I was fascinated by the view into the culture and traditions that were in the book.
Finally, the writing was incredible. There were so many visual and colors mentioned. Emily X.R. Pan is an incredible writer and tells a story beautifully. There’s something about the words she uses to tell the story that brought me into it.
“Memories that tell a story, if you look hard enough. Because the purpose of memory, I would argue, is to remind us how to live.”
Overall, I loved everything about this book. I cannot wait to meet the author. I also cannot wait to see what else she writes in the future.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.