“I’m only here because you needed a storyteller,” Shelley Gallus tells Paolo Rossi in Before Ever After by Samantha Rossi. And, in a way, that sums up the structure of Sotto’s original and very entertaining first novel which has as its theme the human dilemma of wanting to build permanent relationships in lives that are inherently impermanent.
Before Ever After is a love story but it is more than that: part romance, part historical novel, part mystery and part fairy tale it is an unusual and accomplished novel that has good pace and style.
It tells the story of Max Gallus — an attractive Dr Who-like figure — who is a tour guide with an unusual affection for chickens.
Max runs his tour business from a battered VW minibus which he uses to ferry clients to locations of minor historical interest across Europe. It is through this business that he meets and marries Shelley and she hears him recount stories of a family whose members’ lives touched on various historical events across Europe including the French Revolution and the destruction of Herculaneum in AD 79.
When Before Ever After opens, Max has been dead for about three years. His widow, Shelley, is just beginning to emerge from a period of deep grieving when Paolo Rossi turns up on her doorstep looking uncannily like Max and claiming to be his grandson. The mystery kicks off from this point and, together, Paolo and Shelley fly to the Phillipines in search of answers. Their conversation over the course of that long flight provides the framework for the novel as they piece together what they know of Max’s life.
Once the story gets underway, Before Ever After is an enjoyable and entertaining page turner. Samantha Sotto builds momentum and suspense and never loses the attention of her reader.
A paperback edition of Before Ever After was provided free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto is published by Broadway Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-307-71988-1. eISBN 978-0-307-71989-8