Nerdy blogger who loves books, movies, music, television, travel, giveaways, pop culture, fat cats & comfy pj's.
You may remember my plea earlier this year, asking you to consider reading anything by author Simon Van Booy in this post, Why You Should Be Reading Simon Van Booy. I said
After I read a Simon Van Booy book, I feel a little more alive, shiny and loving, if that makes sense to you. Simon has this rare gift of talking about life and love that very few authors have ever shown to me. I believe with all my heart that anyone in need of a few moments of joy must read his books. The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, both collections of short stories, were two of the most beautiful books I have ever read.
Today, I am happy to tell you that Simon has a new book coming out soon, his first novel, Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel. I’ve already got it tucked away on my “great books” bookshelf, right next to my girls Jane Austen and Haven Kimmel. Of course, I loved it–in fact, it is the best book I’ve read in 2011. Set against the spectacular backdrop of an Athens summer that changed the lives of three tortured souls forever, Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel is not your typical story of soul-searching abroad, or an entangled romantic triangle. This novel is told with Van Booy’s trademark gift to write about love, truth, beauty and compassion in a way no other author does, while attempting to turn on all the lights when it comes to family, friendship and loss by examining questions of lifelong secrets, romantic and family failures, sorrow, courage, acceptance, and what it means to be alone.
I love so many things about this book–how the Prologue ends with a single perfect line, setting us up for a full circle story filled with all sorts of interpretations as to what it is to come–“All she knows is that someone fell, and that everything beautiful began after.” I love how one of the three characters, Rebecca, a young French artist, was once a shy ex-flight attendant who was waiting for the moment to reveal her true self, looking in the mirror to find the right face to put on as she served her passengers tea and coffee. Not only did her story remind me of myself, as I was a shy ex-flight attendant (and waitress, cabana girl and bartender) who played the roles of Alice, Vera or Flo for 20 years, I loved it because Rebecca somehow reminded me of my own childhood, which I spent listening to the more melancholy songs by The Beatles, and how I would sing Eleanor Rigby repeatedly as a child, while swinging away to great heights at the park around the block, when I didn’t have my nose buried in a book.
I loved the book because of the well-dressed American named George, who, just like Rebecca (who he is hopelessly in love with), spent his childhood learning to be alone, a result of living a life due to the “history of missing people.” He makes up for the way he feels untidy inside by always dressing up in a suit and tie, but still manages to spend a good part of his life drunk. For people like myself, reading books about characters that are so close to who we actually are (or were, as I was once a best-dressed alcohol abusing woman in my twenties), it is so comforting, even though it is hard to admit to anyone in real life that we are such beautiful, complicated, jaded souls.
I love the book because of Henry Bliss, a young British archaeologist (who is also in love with Rebecca) who found something precious as a young boy, and who believed it belonged to everyone, and not just him. He was a man of faith at age of 9, but was also a broken man who was unable to form lasting friendships, until he met Rebecca and George. Like many people (including me) who have suffered a traumatic childhood, Henry has spent a lifetime building walls around himself, while digging endlessly to discover the true lives of others.
It is a book of aching beauty and compassion, that circles around the essence of what it is to be alive. To parallel that sentiment, Simon has Henry circle the world after a terrible tragedy, having him spend all of his inheritance on flights and hotels, while traveling endlessly for years, even having Henry leave the hospital while still wearing pajamas and a hospital gown, carrying all of his money in a bag. I also love that Simon has Henry write letters to “someone” (I’m not going to ruin it for you) on stationary from hotels all over the world, and one was written from stationary from The Pantlind, a hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which Henry describes as, “I think like me, it was once grand and hopeful. But now people sleep under cardboard boxes in the streets at night.” Not only am I from Michigan and love it when my state gets mention in any book, I know Simon actually does love Detroit, because he once told me that the people here love reading so much, they stole all of the Harry Potter books (right before the release date) from the bookstore he was speaking at. I didn’t have the heart to tell him not to be charmed by that, but he was, and it still charms me to think that his memory of a past visit to Michigan made its way into this book.
Everything Beautiful Began After is a novel that will haunt you with its compassion for characters who have broken souls, due to the tender vulnerability of their unforgettable childhoods. Beautifully written, touchingly told, Van Booy radiates pain, fears, love and freedom on every page of this book. Believe me when I tell you that this book is absolutely unforgettable. Not only did this book bring me to tears, it gives me hope that my own life will be filled with beauty after my own personal tragedies. Normally, I like to read authors who either inspire me to think by the stories they tell, or by fascinating me by the subject matter they write about. Simon Van Booy manages to do the rare trick of fulfilling both of m readers needs, and I can tell you he is as wonderful off the page as he is on the page, as I’ve met him twice.
I’ll leave you with one last quote from the book, which occurred in Sicily, near the end of the novel, “Humans come and go–but the thread of hope is like a rope we pull ourselves up with.”
To celebrate the release of Everything Beautiful Began After, HarperPerennial is offering ALL of Simon Van Booy’s individual e-book short stories for just $1.99. I’d suggest starting off with Love Begins in Winter, as it is the perfect introduction to his writing. You can find this story at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and Google.
Why not take a moment to listen to Simon one of his stories now? I’d really appreciate it if you did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Simon Van Booy was born in London and grew up in rural Wales and Oxford. After playing football in Kentucky, he lived in Paris and Athens. In 2002 he was awarded an MFA and won the H.R. Hays Poetry Prize. He is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which in 2009 won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the author if a children’s book, Pobble’s Way, and the editor of three philosophy books entitled, Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, and Why Our Decisions Don’t Matter, and his essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, and on NPR.
He lives in New York City where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts and is involved in the Rutgers Early College Humanities program for young adults living in under-served communities. His work has been translated into ten languages.
His debut novel, Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel, will be released in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom on July 5, 2011. I BEG you to pre-order your own copy, which you can do by visiting Amazon.com now.
EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER GIVEAWAY – 3 LUCKY WINNERS
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Contest ends Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at midnight. Good luck to you all!