The Astonishing Color Of After

The Astonishing Color of After

How did I get it?:
I bought it!


Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.


You may have noticed that I read a range of new and older releases. I like to try and read some debut authors in the year they publish, so I’ve been making it my mission to read some 2018 debuts over my holiday. I decided to check out The Astonishing Color Of After and I’m so pleased I did. It’s a really beautifully written novel and it astounds me that it is Emily X. R. Pan’s debut. It reads like an incredibly established author had written it. Warning: This book does deal with some very heavy topics so if that’s something that upsets you, then perhaps this book won’t be for you.

It centres around Leigh, whose mother has died by suicide. Leigh’s mother was suffering from depression but Leigh hadn’t realised that things had got so bad. Leigh believes that her mother has come back as a bird and is trying to tell her something about her past. Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents and to find out more about her family. Her mother hid so much from her. She wants to know why but doesn’t expect to uncover family secrets. As Leigh gets to know her grandparents she learns more about herself than she ever anticipated, despite a language barrier.

I thought this book was really special. It is quite long, but it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging. I’m not usually a massive fan of character driven novels but this one really was a masterclass. Again, my mind boggles at how this book is a debut. I felt so much for Leigh, she was dealing with so much, so young. I also appreciated how Leigh was biracial. I haven’t read many books with biracial characters.

I absolutely loved the magical realism element of this story. If you don’t enjoy magical realism, please don’t avoid this book. It’s written in such a way that it adds to beauty of the story.

This book is special because it discusses how the Asian and American cultures can view depression. In no way does it glamorise suicide and depression and I highly respect that. This book should get people talking openly about mental health.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book did feel a little long to me, but I loved the idea and the inclusion of magical realism!