Lauren and Ryan have been together since they were in college. They have evolved from being 19-year-olds in love to almost 30 something's with jobs, a house, and a dog that they mutually adore named Thumper. One day they come to the startling realization that they aren't in love with one another anymore- if they are being brutally honest with each other and themselves they realize that they don't even like one another. Lauren and Ryan decide to take one last stab at being married by spending a year apart from each another to see if they can remember why they fell in love in the first place. There is only one rule- they can't contact one another. Other than that, anything goes.
The following year finds Lauren making some important personal discoveries as she tries to remember why she married Ryan in the first place and if her marriage is still worth saving. By listening to her mom, her grandma, her friends, and even a newspaper advice columnist, Lauren discovers that there is so much more to love, and that there are so many different kinds of love, than she once thought and that it is up to her, and only her, to decide what she wants for her future.
I absolutely no-holds-barred loved After I Do. I loved it so much that I can say without hesitation that it is my favourite book of the year so far, which is saying a lot because I've already read some fantastic books! There was just something about it that drew me in. Perhaps it was the subject matter- being married myself I have experienced firsthand how crazy marriage can be sometimes. I often compare marriage to being on a roller coaster- sometimes things are really fantastic, and sometimes things are most definitely awful, but somehow it all evens out in the end. In After I Do Lauren and Ryan's marriage has hit a rough patch, but it seems never ending and neither partner has the energy to continue with things the way that they are, but they are also not sure how to fix things. They cling to the shred of hope that their marriage, their personal fairy tale, can still have a happy ending and they decide to be apart for a year while they both try to figure out what makes their marriage worth saving. What starts out as a last-ditch effort to save what once was manages to turn into something more enlightening than either expected.
I loved the supporting characters in After I Do almost as much as I loved Ryan and Lauren. The emphasis throughout the book is on Lauren and her family as they try to guide her through a difficult time. I loved the strong female role models in Lauren's life. Her mom, whose marriage ended while she was still pregnant, ended up being a single mom for most of Lauren and her siblings childhood but she managed to do it without resentment or regrets. Lauren's grandma, an interesting and quirky woman, still pines for the man that she spent most of her life loving and she can't wait to join him in the afterlife. I loved the relationship that Lauren had with her sister as well as the one that she had with her best friend from work. Each relationship in Lauren's life brought some new insight into her life and I think that these characters were just as important as our main one.
Taylor Jenkins Reid brought so many different aspects of love and marriage to life in these pages. Love and relationships are such a personal subject. What works for one person may not work for another, yet what Reid reflects on in this book is that all kinds of love and the ways of finding it are both relevant and valuable. Reid has created characters that are all looking for different things in life and who are all going about getting them in different ways, but it was interesting that it all came down to one thing- at the end of the day we all just want to be happy, no matter what our definition of happy is, and no matter how we choose to get there. I'll continue reflecting on this long after this book has found a permanent spot on my bookshelf- my relationship belongs to myself and my husband alone, and only we can decide what works for us.
After I Do is the best book I've read so far this year and I just can't recommend it highly enough! Well-written and incredibly insightful, it made me laugh and cry and reflect on my own marriage in ways that I haven't done before. Whether you're married or not, After I Do is a must read for anyone who has ever been in love. My thanks to the BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge and the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.