just a few days ago I listed all of the self-improvement, inspirational, and soul-stretching books I was going to read this month. But when it was time for our drive back to Utah, all I wanted to read was some chick-lit. And so I read After Hello.
Sara is in New York City for the day with her dad. He is finalizing the sale of his business, and Sara is looking forward to seeing all the sights. Plus, after his meeting is done, they'll be able to have a few hours of quality, one-on-one time, which is definitely something that has been lacking in their relationship. Sam has lived in New York for 18 months. In that time, he has become very familiar with the city and the people in it, to the point of being able to find (and get) practically anything. The morning that Sara is in New York, she sees Sam coming out of a bookstore, and something about him grabs her attention. Before long, their lives become impossibly tangled as they share their heartaches and secrets from the past and try desperately to complete a nearly hopeless assignment.
The story is told from two perspectives: Sara's, in first person and Sam's, in third person. They alternate back and forth with each chapter. I liked this format very much. I usually enjoy stories told from multiple viewpoints, as long as the voices are well-defined and there aren't too many of them to keep track of. Changing between first and third person definitely kept the two characters separate. At first I thought it was a bit of a cop out, like the author didn't know any other way to make them sound different. But in the end, I actually liked it. It made the story distinctly Sara's while still letting me see Sam's angle.
I thought Mangum described the little details of emotion and movement really well, like, for example, when Sara says: "His body was tall and straight, but I saw the exact moment when he shifted his weight forward on his toes. He was ready to run." Very subtle, but also realistic. By the end of the book though, her descriptions had become a bit too much for me; her descriptions were still fresh and new and creative, but they all seemed to contain too many vibrant and vivid synonyms. For example, here's one that I loved about halfway through the book: "I felt like our conversation was suddenly as precarious as the landing beneath my feet. It looked solid enough, but there were dangerous gaps between the rails, places where uncertain feet or unspoken words could slide through." By the end, these types of intense descriptions made me feel worn out.
The next paragraph refers to some important plot details, so consider yourself warned.
The story itself was cute. I love one-day romances. There's something so unbelievable and ridiculous about them that just makes them fun. In this story, I thought there were a lot of other things that were unbelievable, too, not just the romance: Sara's point-and-shoot camera (I'm just thinking that if you're really into photography, it doesn't matter how good you are at composing photos, you're not going to get the kind of quality you want from a point-and-shoot); the fact that she only took 12 photographs during the day (even though she loves photography and she's in New York City where there are a million and one things to take a picture of) and that those 12 photographs were all perfect and exactly as she wanted them; that she was able to not only edit and arrange her photos at Vanessa's house but also print the finished collage (she was really able to print something that was the size and quality that Piper would accept?); that Piper accepted the collage and gave Paul back his job (seems very unlikely judging from Piper's previous selfish and irrational and completely psycho behavior). So yes, a cute story but you definitely have to read it with a bit of a blind eye.
Also, if you've read any of my other reviews, you'll know I don't really like circular conversations, and this book was full of them. Sam and Sara begin broaching difficult subjects again and again, only to move the conversation "to safer ground." That's probably the way we humans converse in real life, but it's still tedious to read.
By this time, you probably are thinking I didn't like the book. But I did. It was clean and cute and well-written and perfect for a nine-hour drive home. Was it my favorite book ever? No. But I definitely enjoyed it, and sometimes that's all I want.