Review | Before and Again | Barbara Delinsky
Publication Date: June 26th, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Page Count: 405
Why I Picked It Up: It was sent to me for free as a part of #SRC2018!
Synopsis: From Goodreads-
Mackenzie Cooper took her eyes off the road for just a moment but the resulting collision was enough to rob her not only of her beloved daughter but ultimately of her marriage, family, and friends―and thanks to the nonstop media coverage, even her privacy. Now she lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid, in a small house with her cats and dog. She’s thankful for the new friends she’s made―though she can’t risk telling them too much. And she takes satisfaction in working as a makeup artist at the luxurious local spa, helping clients hide the visible outward signs of their weariness, illnesses, and injuries. Covering up scars is a skill she has mastered.
Her only goal is to stay under the radar and make it through her remaining probation. But she isn’t the only one in this peaceful town with secrets. When a friend’s teenage son is thrust into the national spotlight, accused of hacking a powerful man’s Twitter account, Maggie is torn between pulling away and protecting herself―or stepping into the glare to be at their side. As the stunning truth behind their case is slowly revealed, Maggie’s own carefully constructed story begins to unravel as well. She knows all too well that what we need from each other in this difficult world is comfort. But to provide it, sometimes we need to travel far outside our comfort zones.
Opening Sentence: "Mackenzie Cooper had no idea where she was or, more critically, why she hadn't already arrived."
My Thoughts: I have complicated feelings about this book. I thought it had a fantastic premise- Mackenzie Cooper is publicly shamed for having taken her eyes off the road for a minute to check her GPS. Her 5 year old daughter is killed, as was the other driver, and her name was dragged through the mud. So much so that her name is now synonymous with distracted driving and the Mackenzie Cooper law is created. She loses everything- her child, her husband Edward, and reputation and moves to Devon, a small town in Connecticut to start over. She's working as an artist and a makeup artist and things are going well, until she sees her ex-husband in town. He, along with her best friend's son who just got into major, public, trouble, threaten to destroy everything she's worked to rebuild.
I liked Mackenzie (Maggie). She was an everyday person who was facing the impossible. This story was very character driven and I feel like we got to know Mackenzie well. Her decisions sometimes irritated me (some decisions that seem obvious to the reader take her for-ev-er to realize) but I walked away being invested into her story. The character that I didn't feel invested in was Grace. Grace is Mackenzie's best friend and the mother of the son who has been accused of hacking. The plot of the story hinges on her being this damaged yet lovable character, but I didn't get any of that from her. We eventually find out why she comes across as erratic and what happened in her life before Devon, but that comes so late into the book it felt rushed and thrown in as an afterthought.
My biggest problem with this book was that it was LONG. Over 400 pages, and there is not that much going on. The author takes her time going places and adds a ton of information that I didn't think was necessary to the characters or the plot. In one section, it took us 3 pages for Mackenzie to travel to the post office. In another we meet a character from Mackenzie's past and talk about his clothing for two pages. It does give you a very vivid picture of the town of Devon and its residents, but in places I found myself fighting the temptation to skim. What dialogue there was was realistic, but there were a lot of internal musings in between. I debated putting the book down about 30% in, but I found I was too interested in knowing how things were going to work out for Grace's son and with Mackenzie and Edward to let go. Their relationship was what saved the book for me.
Read Alike: Little Fires Everywhere
Quote: "My fear was irrational. But that didn't mean it wasn't real."
TL:DR: If you like character driven stories that make you question what you would do in the terrible situations and don't need a ton of action, then you might like this. Trigger warning for anyone who has lost a child. I can't speak to how reading this would feel from personal experience, but the characters' grief was palpable and parts really did make me sad.
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