Life After Yes, by Aidan Donnelley Rowley – Book Review

Life After Yes, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Girl in Dress with Red Sash

Life After Yes, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Girl in Dress with Red SashQuinn O’Malley is supposed to be happy.  She has just said yes to a marriage proposal from a wonderful man, is a successful New York attorney on the fast track with an entire career and lush life ahead of her, but despite all of these things she is still plagued by nightmares which seem to suggest that she might be in the process of making a terrible mistake.

Last year I had the opportunity to read a copy of Life After Yes when it was still in its manuscript form.  I received a bound set of printed pages – the ARCs of this book didn’t even exist yet!  While it was a lot of fun to experience the book in that form and to see a different part of the publishing process, I was concerned when I started to read this novel because I really disliked Quinn and, basically, all of her friends and co-workers.  She has grown up in a privileged existence and it shows in all of the worst ways.  Her entitled and ridiculous behavior reached out and grated on me from the page, and I wondered just what I had gotten myself into. At that point in time, I had been invited to participate in an in-house book club for Life After Yes over at the Harper Collins offices, where the author would be present!  I really thought that I wouldn’t like her book at all and imagined being reduced to inane comments like, “What I really enjoyed was the way you used words to make sentences.”  Thankfully, I needn’t have worried!

Empathizing with and even starting to like Quinn the tiniest bit are a testament to the skill of this talented author, and I am amazed she is a new kid on the block and that this is her first novel.  As I continued reading Life After Yes, I was amazed by Donnelley Rowley’s unflinching yet layered exposition of Quinn as she navigates New York post-9/11 in an attempt to figure out whether the choices that she is making will lead to a fulfilling life, live with leftover remnants of her fear in the wake of tragedy, make peace in her relationship with her mother, and come to grips with the death of her father in the Twin Towers- arguably the most important person in her life.

In portraying Quinn’s growth and yet highlighting the incompleteness of that growth, Donnelley Rowley invites the reader to connect with the character through our understanding of our own complexities, human frailty, and the convoluted reasons we give for our actions when we are just trying so hard to make life work.  Life After Yes deftly straddles the line between offering a few of the lighter elements of contemporary women’s fiction, while still addressing serious issues of loss, finding the right partner, and finding the balance in family and career goals.  Donnelley Rowley also examines alcohol and overwork as common ways that we anesthesize ourselves, and the inherent dangers that come with not facing your life.  The character of Quinn O’Malley is spectacularly imperfect, but she was never boring and I always wanted to know what her next step would be and quickly became invested in my role as reader and cheerleader for her growth.  And for me, that makes for a great read!

Highly Recommended.

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Book Information: Life After Yes, by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
Publisher, Publication Date & Other Info: Avon A – May 18, 2010 – Trade Paperback– 368 pages
Author Website/Other Links and Resources: Ivy League InsecuritiesCheck out what Aidan had to say about how she felt on the release date of Life After Yes
Source: Review Copy Sent By The Publisher

Read More Reviews At: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker

Want More Like This?  Try: This One Is Mine, by Maria Semple

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Blogger Unplugged! December 23,    2009   Jan 2, 2010

If you live in NYC, Aidan Donnelley Rowley will be doing a reading at the Borders on 57th Street and Park Avenue.  It’s on Thursday, May 20 at 7pm.  I plan to go!

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  1. What a GREAT reading experience! I would love to see the progress a novel makes from oringial manuscript to final printed product.

  2. Oh what a wonderful review! You wrote this so elequently! Thanks for mentioning my review.

  3. What a great turnaround in your opinion Rowley achieved. I love to read books that show a character’s growth but I never want to see the person become “perfect.” First of all, that never happens and secondly, to really change and grow takes years.

    1. It is very convenient to live in New York when it comes to fun book events. I don’t get to go to as nearly as much stuff as I would like though, there never seems to be enough time.

  4. Hi Nicole – So nice to “meet” you here. Thank you for this very insightful review of Life After Yes. I recently read it myself and am in absolute agreement about Aidan’s finesse in taking a flawed character and making her likable, redeemable, and human – no mean feat in an age of a slowed economy and job loss. I also very much appreciate your point about alcohol and workaholism being used as anesthetics by the characters – a theme I want to think more about. Thanks again for this great essay!

    1. Hi Kristen! It is nice to “meet” you. Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts. I took a peek at Motherese. I didn’t even know that there was a term for that. I’ll be using it now! You seem to have an idea of just how funny and talented Aidan is, and I was further impressed with her and her writing during our book club meeting. I can totally see being inspired by her to write a blog, and I am glad she gave you the idea to start writing! You seem to have an active community and I enjoyed reading some of your posts – and not just the ones about books. I look forward to seeing what the book club thinks about Life After Yes. It is a great discussion book.

  5. There is something really powerful about a book that can make you think you don’t like it and then suddenly you see all the layers and you “get it”. I’m glad you ended up enjoying it and will add it to my list to read. You’ve never steered me wrong on anything I’ve picked up that you have recommended.

  6. Hello Nicole! Just stumbled across your review. I’m about halfway through Life After Yes now and I have to say I completely agree, Aidan does a pretty good job of creating a complex character, but one who’s very easy to relate to. I found that despite the eccentricities of the lifestyle portrayed in the book, that is a very likable person, one in whom I see many of my own qualities. To me that makes a great book.

    Glad to have found you!
    .-= Christine LaRocque´s last blog ..Am I there yet? =-.

  7. I can’t read your complete review yet – just in case but I just wanted to say that I can’t wait to read this book.

  8. Now that I’ve finished the book, I can officially comment on your review! 🙂

    I definitely share your early doubts about Quinn and her “Berry Baby” existence. The early scenes where Rowley describes Quinn as physically unable to stop checking her BlackBerry were familiar and grating to me — especially since I have friends just like that, people who can’t ever disconnect. It’s a major hot button issue in my daily life!

    In fact, many of the themes in Life After Yes seemed to mirror my own thoughts and feelings, and that’s what made this book so special to me. I absolutely loved it and have a feeling it’ll make my top reads of the year list!

    Oh, and I loved this: “What I really enjoyed was the way you used words to make sentences.” That’s going to be my default phrase for any crummy books I read from now on!
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘Life After Yes’ by Aidan Donnelley Rowley =-.