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 book severely disappointed me. And then it didn’t.
For quite some time I couldn’t understand the stellar ratings this books has received. I have been consciously searching out books without a focus on romance lately, but this sounded different enough to give it a try. I wondered whether I was just too far removed from married life to find the book meaningful in any way or whether it was a case of reader/book incompatibility. I had the same problem I had with Eat, Pray, Love: I realize that introspection requires thinking about yourself, but at some point it just gets to be a little too much. Then, at some point, things changed. And then they changed some more. I am not married, nor even in a relationship. Yet, by the end of the book I was fully engaged. I even teared up. Not because I was sad, but because the book is honest, raw and universially relevant. I think this is a book from which everyone can take away something, whether that something is a new outlook on their own marriage, or on the concept in general, or the significance of family and the ability to be okay by yourself.
Nothing in this book was really news to me. There was no big revelation. There was no epiphany that caused me to reconsider my life. I know that marriage is hard and that love fades if you don’t work at it. Sometimes even when you work at it. Perhaps not from personal experience, but it’s not like this is the first book to ever talk about it. Yes, instead of ending with the wedding of the two protagonists, it starts where their marriage stops working. It talks about the ugly side of lifelong commitment and I give the book points for that, but it’s nothing I haven’t come across before on a tv show, website or in another book. However, this book manages to take all of the things I already know and puts them together in a way that just works. It shows how these things impact actual people and how they try to deal with them as well as they can.
After I Do snuck up on me. It was like the pants you buy even though you’re not sure you even like them, and then you end up wearing them every day. Perhaps it was the acknowledgement that Lauren and Ryan’s way isn’t the only way or the best way; it’s simply their way. Or maybe it was the way Lauren’s family was depicted and how each member got their say (except Uncle Fletcher – seriously why is he even in the book?). Very possibly it was the moment in which Lauren talks to her sister, who explains to her that she is happy with her life the way it is. Likely it was all of these things together that added up to me enjoying this book after all. I especially loved that the author didn’t push me in one direction or another, but simply showed me the different character perspectives without too much judgement.
One of the great things about this book is that it makes you keep wondering how everything will turn out and by the time you find out, you couldn’t have imagined it any other way. Even though I didn’t love the beginning, I can definitely recommend this book. But maybe don’t read it if you are trying to get over someone you genuinely don’t want in your life anymore – this book might make you want to run back. Definitely read it if you want to read a book that doesn’t sugarcoat married life and respects that different people have different needs.
The only thing I can really criticize is that it all came together a little too neatly for me in the hospital scene. Well, that and Uncle Fletcher. I’m not disagreeing with the outcome, just how it was achieved.
I’m giving this book four cupcakes.