I’ve read a lot of great books this year but there have been some that have stuck out as being pretty darn special. Over the next two weeks I’ll be sharing my top 5 favourites. Have you read an exceptional book this year? Let me know in the comments or on social and I’ll add it to my list.
THE ASTONISHING COLOUR OF AFTER
Today I’m going to kick things off with a book that really struck me as something quite exceptional. It’s The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan. If you haven’t read it, you must.
The book tells the story of teenager Leigh as she grapples with her mother’s suicide. Guided by a mysterious red bird, Leigh travels to Taiwan to visit with grandparents she has never met. There she enters a world of colour and mystery where she tries to fit together all the jigsaw pieces of her life into something that helps her to unlock her family’s secrets and make sense of her immense loss.
Pan weaves in the story of Leigh’s best friend Axel and recounts key moments in their unfolding relationship. Moments that are sweet and nostalgic, moments that sometimes seem to be the only things that are tethering Leigh to reality. Their relationship is one built on a mutual appreciation of music, creativity and art – especially the distinct colours used to describe how they are both feeling.
Pan has this beautiful, visceral way of describing the dream-like world that Leigh escapes into. A world of heartbreaking loss that is painted with these vivid colours.
“We watch the sky turn to purple turn to black, watch the winds ushering the clouds overhead. I wonder: If you peel away all that darkness, would you find that deep YInMn blue? Maybe that’s where all the other colours are hiding – in a dimension of the world we just can’t see, between our sky and the rest of the universe.”
Suicide & mental health
At the core of the story is the suicide of Leigh’s mother and the effect her mental health had on Leigh and her father. Mental health, and suicide, are topics that we as a society need to destigmatize and some of the best ways of doing this are by talking about it, writing about it and reading about it.
As a society we can no longer afford for suicide to be something we don’t talk about and seeing it written about in such a gentle, yet thought provoking way gives me hope that the younger people reading books like this one will be more tolerant, open and accepting to people who may be battling the same demons as Leigh’s mother was.
Read this book and be prepared for a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss and acceptance.