Between Before and After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry ~ Review

My Review:

This poignant tale of family, coming of age, and miracles, follows fourteen year old Elaine and her brother Stephen as they fight to survive after the death of their mother, with their absent alcoholic father. Elaine finds a job with a wealthy family to support her family.

Thirty years later Elaine's fourteen year old daughter Molly gets the idea to find out more about her troubled mother's past, drawing inspiration from her mother's career as a biography author. As the pieces begin to fall together, their life is disrupted by a real life miracle. 

A multi-layered story with complex characters, about secrets and the choices we make for the people we love. Elaine is a clever young woman forced to grow up too soon, she is book smart as well as street smart, taking charge of her small household at fourteen. Thirty years later she has become a classically troubled and depressed writer, her marriage is suffering, and her children walk on eggshells around her. Her brother Stephen has held to his childhood faith, and works as a high school teacher at the Catholic school. He is one of the few bright spots in Molly and Angus's lives taking them on adventures doing the everyday things that their mother can't be bothered with. 

The parallel storytelling entwined with the tale of Hansel and Gretel lends insight into the secrets of Elaine and Stephen's past and how their upbringing shaped the people they became. Molly is more like her mother than she realizes, she struggles to maneuver growing up while her family is falling apart, caring for her brother, and trying to figure out her life in the aftermath of the miracle.

An intriguing read that kept me guessing despite how it had me thinking that I knew how some things would turn out. Stephen is one of my favorite characters, he loves his sister despite everything and always sees the best in her and remains humble in the spotlight. I enjoyed the rich storytelling and how Molly and Elaine's stories intertwined revealing Elaine's secrets with even more questions cropping up along the way, making it an ever increasingly hard book to put down. Stephen was one of my favorite characters, and it was interesting to see how he was when he was a boy and how Elaine sacrificed to care for him. A tale of family, secrets that bring us together and tear us apart, and miracles. A well written and engrossing read!

Books reviewed are checked out from my local library or purchased with my own money, unless otherwise noted. 

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