Barbara Delinsky is the queen of family dramas. “Before and Again” is the fifth novel of hers that I have read, and all typically deal with some family drama or secret.
This one involves a young couple — Mackenzie Cooper and her husband, Edward, a venture capitalist, and their daughter, 5-year-old Lily. They live an idyllic life in New England. But while driving Lily to a play date through an unknown neighborhood, she becomes lost. A quick glance at her GPS changes their lives forever.
One glance, one life gone.
Fast-forward four years. We meet Maggie Reid, cosmetologist at a well-known inn and spa in Vermont.
Due to media outrage over the accident, criminal charges, a trial, and a new law created in her name, Mackenzie has left her old life behind, including her marriage and family and started over as Maggie Reid. She has told no one her secret past and has kept her probation officer happy by staying under the radar. Then, her best friend’s son is charged with a federal crime. Due to her connection and loyalty to them, her secret will likely come out and her life will again be splashed all over the papers.
The Vermont setting offers the perfect place for someone to hide out. The quaint tourist town thrives off traffic but craves its privacy and doesn’t ask local residents to explain what drew them to their community. Maggie feels like her life is as good as it will ever get. But when things start to crash around her and people from her past start appearing, she doesn’t manage these new changes well.
I can’t begin to imagine the deep loss that occurs after losing a child and a marriage, but Maggie’s constant hatred of herself was frustrating and repetitive. People showed her love and forgiveness, but she just couldn’t accept it and as a reader, I felt it was a bit over-dramatic.
Maggie had cut off everyone from her past life and didn’t let anyone from her new life get to really know her. Yes, she had friends, but now that her past was coming out, she was afraid of how everyone would see her and judge her. Her ex-husband reappears and her connection to him reignites a passion they had both missed. Delinsky portrays a couple full of hurt, anguish, betrayal, love and forgiveness and doesn’t hold back.
On social media today, we see parents vilified for how they discipline their children. A woman receives death threats for calling the police after the video of the call is shared thousands of times on social media. Delinsky’s story shows how changes in how news is shared and interpreted by millions whether on social media or through news outlets. Everyone seems to want their 15 seconds of fame, but in these situations, 15 seconds can turn into a lifetime of horrors.
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After reading this book, I’ve looked at these types of situations differently, knowing we are only getting half the story and wondering what the motivation is behind the people sharing the story.
Maggie’s message of living through something so tragic and finding a way to continue on is important. No matter what life throws at you, people will remember how we handled the challenging days. Maggie’s biggest obstacle was forgiving herself and until she did that, no one else was going to be allowed to love her or be loved by her.
This book offers life lessons for readers along with a dramatic story wove through the choices we all make every day. Living with those choices and making sense of the past is just one of the many hurdles toward moving on. “Before and Again” may be fiction, but it offers a chance to reflect and maybe make an effort to love those who are hurting, not be so quick to judge, and take part in less social media drama.