The Astonishing Color of After
By: Emily X.R. Pan
On an otherwise good and regular day of high school Leigh returns home to find her mother, whose been suffering from depression, has taken her own life. Lost in grief and shock she soon comes to believe that her mother is visiting her in the form of a bird spurring her to go to Taiwan and meet her grandparents for the first time.
When I saw this was a book of the month club pick I jumped on it and I have to be honest- it’s a lovely, beautiful book. Having lost a close friend to suicide I get that desperate search for answers even when you probably already know there aren’t any. And yeah, even when you know there was depression and other things involved you still look for that break. That switch. That moment when it just became too much and where were you and what could you have done? Not to mention the guilt over where you were and what you were doing when it happened even if there’s nothing to be guilty about…
And on and on.
The title comes from the fact that Leigh and her best friend Axel, both artists, often like to compare their emotions describing how they see them in color. Something I’ve been mentally doing for the last couple of days.
Leigh’s mother suffered depression and an estrangement from her own parents that lasted from before Leigh was born. I really loved the stuff that took place in Taiwan I think Emily X.R. Pan has such a strong debut I’m looking forward to future reads from her. That awkwardness of meeting family for the first time. The many secrets the ones you know have kept, sometimes frustratingly.
Right down to the cultural stuff like the description of the temples, Ghost Month and especially the food at the Night Markets. Amongst other things this book made me want to hop on a plane. There are also flashbacks and memories of Leigh watching her mother’s long battle with depression so if that’s something that might upset people please take that into consideration along with the suicide.
It’s also a fairly large book at first glance but it was so easy to read and so immersive I really flew through this one. As far as the magical realism which is always hit or miss for me- I thought that it mostly worked here. There is one big bit at the end that might be a “Really?” moment for some people- it threw me for a minute but I actually really liked that to.
Recommend: Yes. Absolutely. But please keep in mind the possible triggering issues.