Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – An Evocative Story of Biraciality, Mental Illness & Family

A white bird against a red-purple background, with the text THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, Emily X.R. Pan, a novel in its center.
Summary:

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.

My review:

Note: The following review will discuss depression and suicide.

The Astonishing Colour of After is a poignant and evocative story about mental illness, family, identity, and grief. It tells of a biracial teenage, Leigh, and her search for her mother, who Leigh believes has transformed into red bird following her suicide. And thus she follows her mother’s feathers to Taiwan where, there, she not only meets her estranged grandparents but also discovers her family history, the secrets, and the truths about her mother.

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