Between Before & After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Published February 5th 2019 by Blink

Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions.

Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future.

REVIEW:

The ring was made of braided hair fine as corn silk! No one in our family had blonde hair. I let it rest in the palm of my hand.

With the hair ring came a tiny clipping from a newspaper, nothing more than a headline: Woodward Closes Its Doors.

Between her depressed mother and rambunctious brother, Molly knows her life won’t be sunshine and roses. But things turn upside down in an instant when her Uncle is claimed to be a miracle worker for saving the life of a young boy. But having a miracle worker in the family, pursued by investigations and the faithful, isn’t what occupies her mind the most: Its the secrets she finds in her mother’s dresser, that could unlock the source of her repressed feelings.

In truth, I don’t know how I feel about this book. On one hand, the writing is engaging and descriptive, filling in all the details. The split perspective of 1955 Molly and 1918 Elaine creates an interesting dynamic that kept the pace going. But on the other hand, there was very little actually happening and the climax was underwhelming. What drives the plot is Molly trying to figure out what is causing her mother’s depression, but I honestly don’t know what a lot of the given information ultimately has to do with the story in the end. Its purpose is to paint a picture of realistic characters that readers can connect with, but I quickly lost track of what the main point of everything was.

Saying that, the story’s realism is on-point. The historical accuracy is to be commended and the events that happen are very believable. McQuerry certainly knows how to engage her readers with her imaginative writing and character growth.

Told from the perspectives of two fourteen- to sixteen-year-old girls, there are some mature themes that should be taken into consideration before handing this book to a young reader:

Depression plays a prominent role in Molly’s story. Elaine’s story is a lot darker, including deaths from the plague, a drunkard father, and poverty. There is very little violence, the only occasion being a father briefly beating his young son. There isn’t any coarse language and no substance abuse. As for the sexual content, a sixteen-year-old sleeps with a fourteen-year-old, and it is implicitly mentioned that it happens more than once. That being so, my recommendation is for teens over fourteen.

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