Review Blog

Jul 04 2018

The astonishing colour of after by Emily X. R. Pan

cover image

Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9781510102965
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Themes: Depression, grief, friendship, magic, art, culture. Leigh's mother commits suicide and leaves very little clue as to why. As far as Leigh knew, everything seemed normal. Or was it? Looking back there may have been signs but nothing that stood out. Leigh and her father are devastated and try desperately to find out why Dory (mum) could not stay.
The night before the funeral Leigh's mum comes to her in the form of a red bird and speaks to her in her mother's voice, a voice she would know anywhere. And so starts a voyage of discovery for Leigh which leads her and her father back to Taiwan, her mother's place of birth in search for answers.
This book addresses depression, immense grief and a myriad of other emotions, which are described by the use of colours and art right throughout the book. Leigh and her friend Axel even describe their moods to each other by referencing colour.
This is a gentle, beautiful story overshadowed at the beginning with sadness, but as the journey continues, there is hope and understanding. Leigh's heartbreak is softened by being reunited with her mother's parents in Taiwan with whom she had never met. Dory had left the family home under a cloud and the divide had never been healed before she died. Leigh's connection with Waipo and Waigong (her grandparents) teaches her about who her mother was and the culture she grew up in before moving to America. Questions are answered for Leigh through discovery and persistence.
The connection with her best friend Axel is another beautiful dimension to the story. Leigh was with Axel at the time her mother committed suicide and Leigh often dwells on the fact that she may have been able to stop her mum had she been at home instead. Theirs is a true friendship that endures the grief and pain right to the end.
I would recommend this book to those 12+
Gerri Mills

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