Power of a Pause: After I Do Book Review

by Theja Pk
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Last updated on February 6th, 2024

In this After I Do book review, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at Taylor Jenkins Reid’s emotional and heart-wrenching 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 about 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.

After I Do – Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.3 out of 5
book cover of after I do by Taylor jenkins Reid showing a car with matrimonial flowers on the back

GENRE: Contemporary romance, domestic fiction
PUB DATE: July 1, 2014
TROPE: marriage in trouble

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.

Characters
4 out of 5
Plot
4 out of 5
Writing
5 out of 5
Overall Enjoyment
4 out of 5

Pros

painfully authentic characters

eccentric supporting characters

emotional ending

different engaging formats: emails, letters

insightful wisdom

Cons

FMC was childish and was hard to agree with her actions

disagreed with some plot points

hasty ending

Table of contents

Synopsis

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.

Characters

Lauren

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.

Ryan

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. 

Side Characters

Taylor Jenkins Reid 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.

“There is no failing or winning or losing … This is life, Lauren. This is love and marriage. If you stay married for a number of years and you have a happy time together and then you decide you don’t want to be married anymore and you choose to go be happy with somebody else or doing something else, that’s not a failure. That’s just life. That’s just how love is.”

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.  

Plot

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 kept 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.

Amatonormativity

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. 

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. In suspending my prejudices and judgments, I was able to appreciate the more profound wisdom that Reid is famous for hiding inside her stories. 

Writing

Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors because of her fantastic writing. Her books always exceed my expectations.

I was initially disappointed that we didn’t see things from Ryan’s point of view, but the author included it in a unique and thoughtful way that I ended up enjoying.

The author’s use of different literary formats like emails, letters, and advice columns added depth to the story. She showcases her versatility as a writer, creating a captivating and thought-provoking reading experience.

I admire her ability to convey meaning with brevity and deliver powerful messages through her writing.

Ryan and I are two people who used to be in love. What a beautiful thing to have been. What a sad thing to be.

Best Quotes

  • Just because you can live without someone doesn’t mean you want to.
  • Isn’t it nice … once you’ve outgrown the ideas of what life should be and you just enjoy what it is.
  • The sun will rise no matter what pain we encounter. No matter how much we believe the world to be over, the sun will rise. So you can’t go around assessing love by whether or not the sun rises. The sun doesn’t care about love. It just cares about rising.

All that matters in this life is that you try. All that matters is that you open your heart, give everything you have, and keep trying.

  • Maybe it doesn’t matter if you need someone during the everyday moments of your life. Maybe what matters is that when you need someone, they are the one you need. Maybe needing someone isn’t about not being able to do it without them. Maybe needing someone is about it being easier if they are by your side.
  • Be the daughter your mother needs. Be the daughter who does ugly stuff for the right reasons. That’s where the deep, beautiful, mystifying love of family truly kicks in. 
  • Your love life should bring you love. If it doesn’t, no matter how hard you try, if you are honest and fair and good, and you decide it’s over and you need to go find love somewhere else, then…what more can the world ask of you?

Unconditional love is the freedom to follow your heart and still have a home.

  • Sometimes people do things because they are furious or because they are upset or because they are out for blood. And those things can hurt. But what hurts the most is when someone does something out of apathy. They don’t care about you the way they said they did back in college. They don’t care about you the way they promised to when you got married. They don’t care about you at all.
  • Look at the things we are capable of in the name of the people we love.

Conclusion

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 happily in love, then After I Do is for you. 

Enjoyed this After I Do review? Then, be sure to add this book to your TBR. And if you have already read this book and have some thoughts to share, drop them in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

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