Before Ever After: A Novel

Before Ever After: A Novel

3.9 111
by Samantha Sotto

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"A smartly written romance, mystery and historical adventure all wrapped up in a page-turner that will have you guessing until the very end." – Adena Halpern, author of The Ten Best Days of My Life
Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day.…  See more details below


"A smartly written romance, mystery and historical adventure all wrapped up in a page-turner that will have you guessing until the very end." – Adena Halpern, author of The Ten Best Days of My Life
Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max–same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose–he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.
As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem–how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? – Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down–if it is really Max– and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

 “I was floored by the gutsy scope of this highly unusual love story. Before Ever After is one of those books that challenges the natural laws of fiction writing, and Samantha Sotto pulls it off in a frisky and highly entertaining way.” – Anne Fortier, New York Times bestselling author of Juliet

“I was absolutely enchanted by Before Ever After. It's a highly original and engaging mix of romance, mystery and magic that will challenge everything you think you know about happily ever after.” Jill Smolinski, author of The Next Thing on My List
"A smartly written romance, mystery and historical adventure all wrapped up in a page-turner that will have you guessing until the very end." – Adena Halpern, author of The Ten Best Days of My Life
“Exquisitely written and inventively told, Before Ever After is a beautiful, moving—and quite fun—exploration of what you think you know about your own life.” –Melissa Senate, author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School
"In Samantha Sotto's high spirited debut, a young widow travels to a remote and distant island to answer the question, what price do we pay for eternal love. It is a mesmerizing journey transcending time and continents, all to remind that there are many ways to live on forever and to immortalize a marriage. Note to readers: Curl up with jasmine tea and savor the warm, rich writing, as delectable as the recipes for love found within every enchanting page."  -Saralee Rosenberg, author of Claire Voyant

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Random House
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3 MB


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Before Ever After 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 111 reviews.
readwriteloveblog More than 1 year ago
Fantastic! This book had everything; romance, intrigue, history, mystery, suspense. At times it broke your heart, and at others it warmed your soul. It kept me guessing until the very end, and I never wanted to put it down; never wanted it to end! The story was fascinating, the characters were easy to sympathize with and relate to. It was the kind of book where you were really sad that they aren't people you know in real life. The kind of book that makes you mourn when it ends, and long for more. I absolutely loved it! I would read it again and again!
Amai66 More than 1 year ago
"Before Ever After" has it all. The background settings are breathtaking. The story is full of mystery, romance, adventure, humor, and philosophy.all of my favorite things. The characters are real and very human. The ever twisting plot makes it impossible to put down. Shelley lost her husband, Max, abruptly, blown up by a bomb while she was on the phone with him. Three years later, Paolo knocks on her door, claiming to be her thirty-two year old husband's thirty-two year old grandson. Could Max possibly still be alive? She hastily boards a plane to the Philippines with Paolo, for the most important journey of her life. During their trip, Shelley tells Paolo the story of how she and Max met and her experience with him as a tour guide. Okay.maybe a little far out.but I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed me right away. What an interesting story. I didn't want it to end.
knitwit23 More than 1 year ago
Talk about suspending disbelief! Not only is this story unbelievable from the start to the finish, it is never ending! I stopped about 2/3s through and threw it right in the recycle bin. If you want a really good story that goes from present to past, try Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book. Now, there's a good story that's well written!
Valca85 More than 1 year ago
I received a free ARC of this book. If you have not preordered this novel yet, then stop reading this review and go to Amazon and buy it. I promise you will not regret it. This is a magical tale of love and secrets, by turns funny, touching and heartbreaking. This is one of those books that will grab you from the first page and not let you go until you've absorbed every word. Even then, it will linger with you for days. The story is original and yet familiar enough to resonate in the reader's imagination. How many times have we felt that the person beside us is a stranger? How many times have we wondered if we know everything there is to know about our significant other? Well, this book takes that to an extreme level, pushing the boundaries of our belief, yet never breaking them. It is expertly crafted, exquisitely plotted, with a delicacy that makes every chapter a little jewel to cradle. The many stories interwoven into the plot add levels of symbolism that make this book a wonder to read. Max and Shelley, the protagonists, have abundant charisma, enough to spill over from the pages and eke into the reader's life. Their dialogue is hilarious, Max obsession with chickens a blast of freshness. Shelley is wholly human, three-dimensional and a riot to follow on her adventures. That is not to say that the rest of the characters are any less that marvelous. They will each steal a piece of your heart. I can easily recommend this to absolutely everyone. Add this one to your to-be-read lists.
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
I was completely captivated by Samantha Sotto's novel, Before Ever After. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but when I sat down to read it, it was difficult to tear myself away. I liked the character of Shelley a lot. I'm sure it's difficult to lose a spouse and I felt her journey back from the unexpectedness of Max's death was going realistically. Meeting a man named Paolo puts a wrench in her grieving process. The story moves back and forth in time, especially to the European tour Shelley took around the Continent "off the beaten track" where she first met her husband Max. The historical stories of a woman named Isabelle and her ancestors were very compelling and touched on many areas of history. I think the twists in the story would make it great for book club discussions.
Elaine_Cristina More than 1 year ago
Max used to be a tour guide, but not an ordinary tour guide. He led his 'campers' to unusual spots around Europe not to appreciate the sights or the food, but the history and the lives of those who once inhabited the land, walked on those fields, swam in those waters. And that's when Shelley fell in love with him, while he led her through time and attempted to teach her, and the other campers, the value of a chicken and some eggs. Years later, Shelley is Max's widow, but one can't say she's actually alive. She survives in a daily struggle to breathe and keep a parody of the life she shared with him. Everything, however, is about to change. There's someone at the door. She opens it. And there is Max. For the split of a moment, she believes herself insane. She's a prisoner of her own hallucinating mind. But, no, that cannot be. That's not Max. That's Paolo Rossi. Max's grandson. How can that be possible? Max wasn't more than a couple years older than herself. Paolo brings photographs showing a greying Max, whose face never seemed to gain those unavoidable lines time gifts everyone with. That's just a detail, though. More importantly, Max may be alive. There is another photograph and there is Max, standing by his famous eggs and cheese, the blank piece of Scrabble she had given him hanging from a chain around his neck. But why would he lie to her? Why would he make her believe he's gone? It's time for Shelley to face reality, and a journey towards truth has never taken so long. Literally. It's a journey which is also hard to describe, it provokes feelings words cannot express. More than a timeless romantic tale, Samantha Sotto created many lives within two, many stories within one. The settings are very vividly depicted, both with awe and appeal, not leaving room for tediousness born out of long and meaningless sentences. The plot has a quality of rare originality - so I'll stop talking about it right now, or I'll spoil it. It suffices to say that it starts unpretentiously, but then it gets the reader back and forth in time. One minute you are travelling with Max, Shelley and the campers throughout Europe, but when you least expect it, you are immersed in the Fall of the Bastille or in a monastery somewhere. For every story Max shares, there is a different storyteller's voice in the reader's mind, and a distinguished set of characters who shine on their own and for different reasons. Pavel and his wish to never cause pain to his mother. Gestrin and his fear of loneliness. Uri and his grief. And so many others. There is a connection between these many historical figures and Shelley, a connection which, eventually, changes her life in such a way that there is no turning back. And how does Max fit into this? Forgive the cliché, but that is for me to know and for you to find out! Max is a wonderfully developed character, though. He's got a very philosophical attitude towards life and how to make the best of it, a sense of humour to give the Weasley twins a run for their galleons and something else, something uniquely his, that makes him special, lovable, sensitive. The story is beautifully brought to a close. It is simultaneously predictable and unimaginable, happy and sad, bitter and sweet. An authentic story and a talented debut writer can only make a highly recommended book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book based on the reviews. Boy, I'll think twice about doing that again. This book was totally off the charts.. The story not only was a back-and-forth read but it was totally bizarre. Waste of my time and my money.
AKinderman More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! It was such a great adventure through Europe and the plot was riveting. I loved how Shelley and Max met and spent their time together and the history and factual information made me want to constantly look up photographs of where they were. The "fantasy" aspect fit along with the story nicely and the ending is very hopeful. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
Anonymous 11 months ago
I loved the realism of the romance. Kudos! I wish the author would write more.
Gertt More than 1 year ago
I loved the fantasy of being immortal; I loved Max, his chickens, his eggs and his stories. All the characters were interesting and blended together for a great story. Well worth reading.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Bizzare story. Kind of Creepy and depressing to boot. Made it about half way through and gave up. Not my style thus would def not recommend.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Prefer a straight story line rather than pieced tigether
Anonymous 9 months ago
Navymom55 More than 1 year ago
This story sucks you in. The writing style advances the story at a perfect pace. I look forward to her next book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shelly and Max's love story comes to life in this incredibly written story of never ending love. I have never been so captured by a love story as i was during this one. Within the first 5 pages i was hooked and needed to know how their tragedy ended. I was pleasently surprised and wanted more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe this book wouldn't be different for you, but it was to me. The main character is not a vampire or other monster which was a nice change. I love history and this book made me think about how I would live my life if I were in his shoes. Very enjoyable and unpredictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was alright; it held my interest for the most part, but i was pretty disappointed in the lack of character development and the abrupt/weak ending. It felt like the author rushed to wrap things up, and it left me wanting more explanation to parts from earlier in the story.
Lillianne More than 1 year ago
From the very first page, this book will pull you in like a centrifuge and not let you out until you finish the novel. The author cleverly ties historical fiction, mystery, and a little romance into a thrilling book that reaches across several genres of fiction. I got this book for free from a goodreads giveaway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel keeps the reader on their toes for all 263 pages! The story is a great read especially if you like history. The novel has passages that blew my mind because they were so meaningful and true. Truly a great read!