Summary: Prudence Quinn O'Malley, the protagonist of Life After Yes, is whisked off to Paris by her boyfriend for a romantic weekend and a proposal. Back in her New York lawyer life with a sparkly diamond on her hand, she has doubts about her future, her fiancé and herself. Her father, recently killed in the September 11 attacks, is very present in her memory and she desperately wishes for his wisdom as she navigates that rocky period between the giving of one ring and the giving of a second.
Full disclosure: Aidan Donnelley Rowley is the author of the Ivy League Insecurities blog, which I read daily without fail. Thus the fact that I "know" her a fraction and have some measure of interaction with her, compared to all those anonymous authors out there, may colour my review slightly; although I have tried not to let it. I would definitely recommend the blog!
Quinn is of course ex-Ivy League, a lawyer, slim, beautiful, fashionable, with a good salary and an investment banker partner. So far, so standard. But Quinn is not a black-and-white protagonist, she definitely has her flaws: her drinking verges on the alcoholic, she's clearly not yet over her long-term boyfriend whom she dumped not all that long ago in order to take up with her now fiancé, and she fails quite a few moral tests during the course of the book. I savoured this very realistic character – not the perfect athletic superwoman so many authors choose, and not the ditzy airhead (see Bridget Jones, Confessions of a Shopaholic…). I wanted to believe better of her on several occasions, and it's not often you feel let down by the heroine. (Although Jane Eyre and I are going to have words one day about her running off into the wilderness without any money and leaving her belonging on the coach. Because that was all pretty stupid and not really worthy of Jane). Quinn's grief is crippling and real, and this (as many of the reviewers pointed out on the cover) gives depth and texture to what could otherwise be passed off as chick-lit fluff.
I loved Quinn's mother – wise, feisty, suffering her grief in private, but clearly a woman who knows how to have her fun, and knows her daughter very well. Sage didn't convince me – he seemed pretty dull. What did Quinn see in him? His mother is terrible, truly awful, but there is a beautiful moment towards the end which does eventually endear her to the reader. His father, like Quinn's, is absent, although for very different reasons, and I think Rowley didn't particularly want Sage's father to contend with the strength of the void left by Quinn's father's death. I struggled with most of the minor characters – Kayla was too extreme, Avery too pale – I didn't really understand why Quinn would be friends with them. Quinn's brother Michael was very interesting and I was sorry not to see more of him in the plot.
Rowley has chosen a particularly unusual period of life about which to write – I am far more used to "getting the guy" being the resolution of the story. We follow Quinn from near-commitment to actual commitment and it permits us to live her doubts, her fears – all those emotions that brides-to-be are supposed to suffer through, but silently.
All in all, a very enjoyable read, most commendable as a debut, and I hope to read plenty more of Rowley's writing (not just on her blog!)