Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Book Review | AFTER ANNIE by Anna Quindlen

by Anna Quindlen
Publication: February 27, 2024
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Women's Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

Anna Quindlen’s trademark wisdom on family, friendship, and the ties that bind us are at the center of this novel about the power of love to transcend loss and triumph over adversity, by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Still Life with Bread Crumbs and One True Thing.

When Annie Brown dies suddenly, her husband, her children, and her closest friend are left to find a way forward without the woman who has been the lynchpin of all their lives. Bill is overwhelmed without his beloved wife, and Annemarie wrestles with the bad habits her best friend had helped her overcome. And Ali, the eldest of Annie’s children, has to grow up overnight, to care for her younger brothers and even her father and to puzzle out for herself many of the mysteries of adult life.

Over the course of the next year what saves them all is Annie, ever-present in their minds, loving but not sentimental, caring but nobody’s fool, a voice in their heads that is funny and sharp and remarkably clear. The power she has given to those who loved her is the power to go on without her. The lesson they learn is that no one beloved is ever truly gone.

Written in Quindlen’s emotionally resonant voice and with her deep and generous understanding of people, After Annie is about hope, and about the unexpected power of adversity to change us in profound and indelible ways.


Set in a small town, Annie Brown lived a life that was both lovely and reliable. She married young, had four children, and worked tirelessly as an aide at a nursing home. Despite the challenges, Annie found contentment in her role as a wife, mother, and friend. But when she dies suddenly of an aneurysm, her family and closest friend are left to grapple with grief and find a path forward.

Annie's husband, Bill Brown, is overwhelmed by the loss. Her best friend, Annemarie, struggles without Annie's steadying hand. And their 13-year-old daughter, Ali, steps into the role of caretaker for her younger siblings and even her father. As they navigate their grief, each character meets difficult facts about adaptability and resilience.

Anna Quindlen masterfully weaves Annie's story with the lives of her survivors. With her sudden death, Annie remains a vibrant presence throughout the novel. Quindlen’s writing captures the complexities of human relationships with grace and insight. Whether exploring loss or celebrating love, she invites readers to quietly reflect on their own lives through her poignant narratives. Her characters are well-drawn, their emotions sharp and authentic.

This book touched me deeply as I lost my mother to cancer recently. I could not help but cry at some parts, as they reminded me of my own loss. However, I also felt that this book helped me process my grief in a healthy way. The novel's emotionally resonant voice captures the essence of loss while leaving room for hope. As Bill reflects at one point: "Maybe grief was like homesickness—something that wasn't just about a specific person but about losing that feeling that you were where you belonged." So, yes, this book will lean heavily on your emotions, so prepare yourself to cry along.

AFTER ANNIE is a beautiful novel that celebrates love's ability to transcend time and triumph over adversity. It's an emotionally satisfying and absorbing story. As we witness Annie's loved ones grow stronger in her absence, we're reminded that even in loss, there is resilience—and perhaps even unexpected joy.

This is also available in audiobook, narrated by Gilli Messer. If you've enjoyed Anna Quindlen's previous works or appreciate stories about love, family, and community, this novel is sure to resonate with you.


Aboth the Author:
Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of many novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, and Miller’s Valley. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.

*Thanks to Penguin Random House eARC in exchange for this unbiased review.


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