Thursday, August 9, 2012

The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer

4 Star

L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.

Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.

One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.

Lydia - 4 Star

I had yet to crack one of her novels, but Gigi Levangie Grazer has been continuously making me giggle with her hilarious Facebook and Twitter updates, so when the opportunity presented itself, I snatched up The After Wife without even knowing what it was about. I frequently read novels without a clue to what lies within when I am familiar with an author, or sometimes I just plain forget because so much time has passed since agreeing to review a novel and then receiving it and finally reading it. Also, I kind of like the surprise, and detest spoilers. That said, I really wish I had read the synopsis on this one first or had picked it up at a different time in my life due to several recent losses in my family, but maybe there isn't ever a good time to read about losing the love of your life and being made a widow at such a young age.

I wasn't disappointed though, Levangie Grazer's humour translates well into fiction, even with the depressing subject matter. She somehow entices some small chuckles which become guffawing laughter as the novel progresses and I found this novel reminiscent of Jonathan Tropper's How To Talk to a Widower in that they are both able to find humour after a certain point in their situations, probably because they are able to laugh at themselves. The main difference between the two novels is that with The After Wife, we are privy to the loss as it occurs, not months later, and Levangie Grazer handles this gracefully and is equally adept at showing Hannah's devastation which is palpable and heart-wrenching.

Being thrown right into Hannah and John's love affair straight from the first page was refreshing to read as so many novels are about spousal angst and some stories about heroines dealing with losses only leads to uncovering secrets, deceit and transgressions. None of this is present in this novel. Their love is tender, sweet and real. I blushed a few times at their tenderness and affection and even more so at their attraction. I really loved this about the novel. And it really made John's death all the more tragic and heart breaking.

I enjoyed Hannah's quirky cast of friends and even though slightly predictable, I still enjoyed the ride. I do wish we had seen a bit more of her daughter though.
I will definitely seek out more from Levangie Grazer!
Thank you to Random House for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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