“The carnage began with the roses. She hacked at their ruffled blooms until they dropped into monstrous drifts of red on the parched yellow lawn … Only two things kept my mother grounded to us: my uncle Stephen and stories.” Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions. Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future. Told in dual narratives between 1918 New York City and 1955 San Jose, California, Between Before and After, by award-winning author Maureen McQuerry, explores the nature of family secrets, resiliency, and redemption. This is an historical coming-of-age Young Adult story about the complex bonds between mothers and daughters.
Between Before and AfterFeatured
Great YA historical fiction
Elaine is the child of poor Irish immigrants growing up in turn of the century New York City. When Elaine’s mother dies from the Spanish flu. Elaine struggles to keep her family together.
Elaine’s daughter, Molly, is growing up in 1950’s San José, California. She is crushed by the breakup of her parents marriage and desperately attempting to understand her distant mother and learn her secrets.
I really love historical fiction. I find I enjoy YA most often when it has some history to it. It gives the story more depth and perspective. I was really pleasantly surprised to discover that ‘Between Before & After’ contained dual timelines from the 1950’s and 1910’s.
I also loved that the timelines were of a mother and daughter with the mother included in the daughters timeline. I really liked Elaine’s 1910’s story more than Molly’s 1950’s story. The struggles (including poverty, abuse, and alcoholism) of immigrants in New York in the early twenty century is harrowing. I felt like Molly’s story was a little less put together than Elaine’s. A few times the dialog in Molly’s point of view seemed a little rambling. Also, I really thought the whole miracle thing with Uncle Stephan took away from Molly’s story.
Little things I loved about the story: 1950’s pop culture (the characters first trip to McDonald’s) and the homing pigeons.
I thought the story wrapped up well. It gave a good conclusion without being tied up too neatly. I really enjoyed ‘Between Before & After’. A family historical drama with two great YA protagonists. One of my favorite YA’s.