Synopsis: Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
This book was just beautiful. I gave it 5 stars and I can see why so many people where raving about it.
From the very beginning of this book we see Leigh after her mother takes her own life. The way they covered grieving was so raw and real. Watching her process what happened, and feeling like she could have prevented it.
“How did we fail? Sleep is what I need. Sleep will end all these thoughts, this viridian spiraling. But with my eyes squeezed shut, lashes twitching against my cheeks, all I can do is think about the past.”
The format of the book is told in present tense and through memories. This is really when the magical realism comes to play, because we see both magic and real memories. Slowly the book gains more and more depth, and you start to understand a lot of why everything happened the way it did.
The most important aspect of the entire book to me was family. She digs up the past and learns so much more about the family she never knew. She meets her grandparents for the first time and also learns why her mother never wanted them to meet. Through all this she also struggles with the language barrier.
“it’s an incredible blessing to be able to see your loved ones during the most difficult times.”
I think this is a really good coming of age story as well, with her struggling at home and falling in love with her best friend. It was well done and super realistic in my opinion. They are both too scared to put themselves out there, even though they both like each other. And after her mother dies she feels guilty about it all and we really see her sort out what she wants.
“There’s no point in wishing. We cant change anything about the past. We can only remember. We can only move forward.”
The ending was so strong and you really feel Leigh and her dad are on a path towards healing and making peace with it all. I would recommend this to anyone who likes emotional books, the topic of mental health, or magical realism.
Thanks for reading 🙂 If you read this already what did you think? If not would you?