TITLE: After I Do
AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid
GENRE: Contemporary romance, domestic fiction
PUBLISHER: Washington Square Press
PUBLICATION DATE: July 1, 2014
TROPES: Marriage in trouble
After I Do is an emotional and heartwrenching story about daring to navigate love and relationships in a way that’s true to who you are, even if this goes against what society dictates you should do. It’s about fighting for your marriage and redefining what a marriage should be like. But most of all, it’s a story rediscovering your truths.
One of the reasons why I gravitated towards this book (other than TJR being an auto-buy author for me) is that it explores one of my fears of marriage – the possibility of growing bored and losing the spark between partners. And as always, Taylor Jenkins Reid gives us a surprising perspective that’s both insightful and inspiring.
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.
Lauren is the type of person who is defined by the status of her love life because she’s always wanted a ‘normal family.’ But with her marriage on the rocks, she’s forced to ask herself who she is outside of her marriage and what she wants out of life.
Most of the book is from her POV, and while this was necessary for the emotional impact of the story, I have mixed feelings regarding her personality. As relatable as I found her, she came off a bit juvenile and stuck in her perspective. I liked that her ‘youthful exuberance’ made her playful and fun to be around, but it also made her actions childish and hard to agree with sometimes.
What I liked the most about his character was his ability to face his flaws as he learned to be honest with himself for his mistakes in the marriage. We get a deeper dive into his perspective through his written letters. I always appreciate a dual POV in my novels because a single POV can be misleading and sometimes inadequate in creating the entire story.
Reid masterfully crafted a cast of eccentric yet endearing supporting characters, each with their own unique quirks and depth that could easily carry their own books. From a grandmother who is convinced she has cancer to an uncle who prefers to die while playing his favorite video games, every character is memorable.
One of my favorites was LAUREN’S MOTHER. She’s your quintessential mother who simply loves being a mom. Her eagerness and drive to be the most maternal figure in any room she walked into were both comical and endearing. I loved her wisdom and how she guided Lauren when she needed it while giving her the space to figure things out in her own way.
LAUREN’S GRANDMA plays a pivotal role in challenging the underlying message of the novel that there’s no single way to fix a marriage. Despite being old-fashioned, her insightful advice is an incredible addition to the story and will make you think about your own beliefs.
The author also dives into LQBTQ representation in exploring marriage and relationships from their POV, adding further depth and dimension to the story.
There were a few plot points that I disagreed with that I felt were an invasion of privacy on the MCs’ parts, but I understood the compulsion behind it and can’t fault the author for writing such raw and realistic characters.
The plot progresses both slowly and quickly, depending on which storyline you focus on. In dealing with the underlying issues of the marriage (e.g., lack of communication), the problems aren’t dealt with directly until the end, when everything is wrapped up a bit too hastily. But Lauren’s growth with her family kept me glued to the pages and keeps this book afloat.
Despite the hasty conclusion, I loved the ending. It was emotional and unexpected. But I was satisfied just the same. Reid packed so many emotions into the climax that it’s a lot to process in one sitting, but at the same time, you can’t put down the book because of how much it draws you in.
So this is a new term I learned after reading the reviews of this book on Goodreads. It is the assumption that a central, romantic relationship is normal for humans and is a universally shared goal. And it adequately describes the central theme that the author challenges. She shows that what makes each person happy and fulfilled is different, and that’s okay because everyone is navigating their relationships in the best way they know how.
Taylor Jenkins Reid challenges you to question society’s definition of a perfect romantic relationship and inspires you to build your own definition of it that suits you. Some couples want to have kids, and some prefer not to get married but stay together in a committed relationship. Some people like being single and focusing on their dreams, while others prefer a partner’s company. Whatever your preference may be, that is perfectly okay. And I love how the author explores this message because it encourages you to challenge what society considers the ‘norm.’
My advice to anyone who chooses to read this is to go into it without judgment. How Lauren and Ryan try to fix their marriage might be different from how you would deal with the issue if you were in their shoes. I know I certainly wouldn’t go about it the same way, but that’s not what the book is about. And in suspending my prejudices and judgments, I was able to appreciate the more profound wisdom that Reid is famous for hiding inside her stories.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my all-time favorite authors, primarily because of her fantastic writing. You never know what you’ll get out of her books, but you will always get more than you expected.
I initially felt a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see things from Ryan’s point of view, but then the author did end up including it in such a unique and thoughtful way that I ended up really enjoying it. And seeing another person’s POV makes you realize how wrong one character’s assumptions of a situation are, and I appreciated seeing both sides of the story.
Not only can Reid construct different perspectives, but she’s also able to use different literary formats like emails, letters, and advice columns from newspapers to add further depth and richness to the immersive experience of this story. She never fails to showcase her versatility as a writer in creating a unique and captivating reading experience that is both imaginative and thought-provoking.
I admire her remarkable ability to convey a great deal of meaning with brevity. She masterfully delivers powerful messages through her writing that will impress you.
Taylor Jenkins Reid has a knack for writing the kinds of stories that stay with her readers long after they have closed the book. If you’re looking for a painfully realistic portrayal of a marriage on the verge of divorce coupled with a refreshing take on what it means to be happy in love, then After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid is for you.
If you’ve seen a different cover for this book and are wondering if it’s the same novel, I have included some of the alternative covers I have seen below to avoid any confusion.
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