Right after I finish talking about the maturity of TJR’s writing in One True Loves, After I Do comes along and makes me sound like an idiot. This portrait of a long-term relationship, taken for granted and fraying at the seams, was so well-written that I was enthralled even though almost nothing happened.
TJR taps into the emotions of these characters so well that I think anyone could relate to them. She paints this picture of two people who have become so complacent, dying by a thousand courtesies, and driven crazy by the person they promised to love for the rest of their lives. It felt so messy at the beginning, I thought for sure I wouldn’t care about these people and their dumb relationship, but TJR made me care, and by the end, I was invested in their marriage as they were.
Unlike One True Loves, there’s no ‘hook’ to keep you reading. These are ordinary people doing everyday things and living normal lives. Lauren’s life is painstakingly average. She spends time with her family, works an office job, walks her dog, and gets books from the library. The biggest excitement in her life seems to be Greek food (honestly, they are obsessed with the fact that she likes Greek food for some reason… it’s a strange plot point). And TJR takes the average and the mundane and not only makes it readable but relatable.
Everyone can empathise with Lauren and Ryan and every one of these characters. They’re blank spaces to project yourself and everything missing in your life. Rachel is here if you’ve got a passion you’re not following, or those convinced they’ll never fall in love and may not be too worried about it. Lauren’s mother is for people craving romance without the pesky strings of responsibility and reliability. Charlie is for anyone who doesn’t quite fit in with their family but still wants to be accepted. Lauren’s grandmother is for the ones who have lost their partner and are just counting the days without exactly giving up. Mila is for those who love their partners but maybe not their lives or at least this particular stretch of it. Ryan is for the grass is always greener, unable to see your own faults types. And, finally, Lauren is for those who don’t quite know what they want, but it can’t be whatever they’re doing now.
I’m not entirely sure why I feel so drawn to this book. It could be because I could see myself in some way in every one of these characters. It’s also nice to read something that just is rather than trying to draw you in with some crazy plot device. But it’s most likely the truth that rings through these pages, making it hard to deny that it sucked you in and kept you engaged from the first chapter.