First of all, this was 100% a cover buy for me. And I don’t regret it.
In the Astonishing Color of After, sixteen year old Leigh is dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s suicide. Although her mother suffered from depression for many years, Leigh believed strongly that she would get through it. Leigh becomes extremely lost after her death, and when a mysterious red bird shows up on her doorstep sounding exactly like her Mother, she decides she must figure out why.
Leigh ends up going on a trip to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time. There’s a big language barrier and it’s a rough go at first, but eventually Leigh goes on a wild goose (or just a red bird?) chase leading her to different memories of her mother, Dory. With the help of her grandparents and family friend, Leigh ends up understanding much more about Dory and her life before she was born.
This novel does a beautiful job at weaving through the grief and emotion of losing someone you love. It flashes back and forth between the past and present but it was not hard to understand.
As other reviews have said, it does not romanticize suicide, which I believe is important. There is a long, long story leading up to her Dory’s death which helps us understand more of her background, however, you don’t find out much until you’re pretty deep in the book. The author does a great job mixing Leigh’s story with her mother’s.
The magical realism wasn’t too heavy and was certainly believable. This book was so, so different from many of the books I’ve read lately. Emily X.R. Pan is incredibly talented and I simply cannot wait until she publishes another novel.