SOBER REVIEW: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

astonishing color of after

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

What’s it about – Leigh’s mother has just killed herself, and Leigh and her father struggle to process what happened. But Leigh starts receiving visits from her mother in the form of a red bird, and it leads to a LOT of discoveries…like Leigh going to Taiwan, meeting her mother’s family for the first time, and learning who her mother really was.

What I drank – water because I believe in hydration and good skin. And was absolutely terrified if I drank before discussing this book I’d Never. Stop. Crying.

What I liked … oh my God so much. So much.
– I’m a sucker for descriptive writing, and Leigh describes a lot of what she sees and feels using color (which could have gone cheesy or boring, but Pan executes it so well). I think it helps that Leigh is an artist, so she would know about a metric ton about colors, and it would make sense how she describes her emotions as colors.
– I love the journey that Leigh’s grieving process takes, and the complexity of her relationships with both her parents, because they’re not BAD or GOOD, but people dealing with a very difficult mental health issue. Depression is so very complicated, and I think Pan writes about it with a lot of respect from all points of view.
– I guess this book would be considered magical realism, and I have not liked contemporary magical realism, but its honestly so beautifully handled. Pan jumps between the present, Leigh’s past with her love interest, and Leigh’s family’s past with the aid of supernatural elements, and I think it works because shes both in her mother’s home country and in an environment with a different view on supernatural elements.
– Leigh’s love interest, Axel…oh honey. I’m mixed race so I’m also a sucker for mixed race characters. So to have not only a protag who’s mixed race, but a love interest who’s mixed race and ALSO Asian…be still my heart.

(I’ll do a very short version of my rant on this and just say Asian men are wildly underrepresented in entertainment, and when they do get a role, it’s not great, so I always get wildly excited when I see a fully developed Asian leading male. #starringjohncho)

What I didn’t like –
The food descriptions. I’m so mad. I’m so hungry. There is a TON of food mentioned. So hangry. Where the hell can I find a night market stat.

SPOILERS OH SO HEAVY SPOILERS
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Leigh seems REALLY surprised her mom’s parents didn’t want her marrying a white guy. Now, I get the impression Leigh’s hometown is pretty white because Leigh says she and Axel are the only two mixed race kids (and maybe that’s a bias on my end and we can address it later), so she doesn’t have other Asian friends to compare cultures. And her mom never talked about her background so she wouldn’t have known that way. But are we to assume she’s never read a book or seen a movie where any family doesn’t want their kid marrying outside of their race or culture?

Leigh’s mom dies, and Leigh is in Taiwan for weeks, and she gets, what, zero outreach from her female best friend? For real?

Leigh meets the ghost of her aunt and IT WAS REALLY LOVELY AND SAD

END SPOILERS ****************************************************************************************************************************************************************
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What I gave it – 5 stars

What I would pair it with – whatever your fave comfort drink is, you’ll need it

FBGM,

linz

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