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Preview Reviews: Life Before by Carmel Reilly

May 8, 2019

Carmel Reilly’s Life Before is a compelling debut thriller about an ordinary family caught in a terrible situation. Our Better Reading Preview reviewers devoured the book, describing it as a haunting and engrossing family drama – and simply un-put-down-able. Here are all their reviews:

‘I really enjoyed this book. I literally couldn’t put it down. Would recommend to those that love Liane Moriarty.’ – Amy, VIC, 5 stars. 

‘There were several times when I felt a bit frustrated with this book, it often seemed to be standing still or focusing on a peripheral character when I wanted some movement but then it would suddenly kick into gear in a shocking and upsetting way. Very vivid, real characters who are entirely believable in their differing reactions to events. Often painful to read but definitely worthwhile and rewarding. Though the ending leaves some key questions unanswered, they’re not the point of the journey.’ – Richard, VIC, 3 stars. 

‘The story moves between 1993 and 2016; between a country town somewhere in Victoria, and Melbourne. The 2016 sections describe the outcomes of an extremely dramatic event in 1993, and how they affect the life of a young woman and her family. It’s an interesting and original plot, although at times I would have liked it to move at a faster pace. Some of the detail, meant perhaps to develop the characters to a greater extent, seemed a bit plodding. The atmosphere of the country town (where everyone knows everyone else and you’re a stranger until your family has been there several generations) was beautifully portrayed, but I thought the Melbourne scenes were less convincing. Overall, I enjoyed the book – a good summer read!’ – Susan, VIC, 3 stars. 

Life Before is a thought-provoking novel, where the past finally catches up with Lori (Loren) and her brother Scott. A book of secrets, regrets, guilt, tragedy and finally the truth. Wonderfully written – a family that has to cope with two horrendous tragedies. Would have loved the ending to have been different to see what happens to the siblings.’ – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars. 

Life Before is set in two time frames. The narrators are mother and daughter. The book involves a tragedy and the way people deal with it. It’s a story about fitting in – or not – in a small town, and the festering resentment after the tragedy causing devastating consequences. The second part is how the next generation deal with the fallout – or don’t – and is set in present-time. Some of the attitudes of the daughter are perverse and unexplained. Why was she so resentful of her brother and why did she alienate him? The book seems to be unfinished to me, too many questions unanswered.’ – Gloria, SA, 2 stars. 

‘Thanks to Better Reading for the opportunity to read and review Life Before by Carmel Reilly. It took me a while to get into this book but so glad I didn’t give up on it. What a great story and such wonderful, descriptive, ‘real’ character development. The story follows the Green family and explores just how much one family can endure in a lifetime. A perfect depiction of family life in small-town Australia, where everyone knows everyone, to that of the life and anonymity of big-city living. Loren Green (now Lori Spyker) runs away to the big city from her small-town life of 17 years after family trauma strikes, but things have a way of catching up to you. There are so many sad and relatable events in this book that I cried, held my breath and so wanted Lori to forgive herself. A great Australian novel and I look forward to reading future works of Carmel Reilly.’ – Karyn, ACT, 4 stars. 

‘Richly detailed and beautifully descriptive, Life Before is a family drama with a mystery at its core. The scenes positively leap from the page as you are drawn into the saga of Green family and the the terrible tragedy that will change all their lives forever. Told over two timelines, 1993 and 2016, Life Before gently unravels a family’s darkest secrets and hidden past to reveal a fractured future and a pair of siblings living with survivor’s guilt. Carmel Reilly makes you care about her characters in a way so few authors do these days, and you feel invested in their stories in both timelines. Each character is beautifully developed with a past, present and future you can almost see unfolding within each chapter. Life Before is a book about tragedy and consequences, and leads to a devastating conclusion in one timeline, but it is also a book about life and hope and, ultimately, forgiveness. Thank you to Better Reading Preview and Allen & Unwin for this review copy.’ – Emily, VIC, 4 stars. 

Loved this book, maybe because it was partly set in “my” era and I could easily identify with life in the 90s and before, or maybe because a lot was set in Melbourne, but really I think it was because it was a great story of family life and what goes right and wrong in many of our lives. I was so sorry to finish this book as I was engrossed from first page to last. Looking forward to Carmel Reilly’s next book!’ – Jenny, VIC, 5 stars. 

Life Before was an interesting read. It was not complicated with lots of flowery language but every so often, Carmel used words that weren’t familiar. ‘Inchoate’ was one of these that had me checking the dictionary. The story moves between an event in Northam, 1993 and Melbourne, 2016. This flipping backwards and forward was easy to follow. The common thread between each time was Loren and Scott. In 1993, both are involved in a car accident where death and injury affected local families. Following this Loren and Scott are devastated by revenge killings. Both go their own ways. In 2016, grown-up brother and sister are reunited when Scott is injured and hospitalised. I liked Carmel’s characters. I felt lots of sympathy for Pam. I must admit I found the ending left me up in the air. It was a surprise when we find out Loren’s husband and Scott know each other. This left me rolling my eyes. I was left wondering whether Scott recovers and whether police got the bad guys. Did everyone live happily ever after? I also wondered why pages 337 – pages 344 made it as the last chapter. Nothing new. Eye rolling time again! I liked this book, even though the ending wasn’t what I was hoping for.’ – Andrew, VIC, 4 stars.

Life Before was a richly-woven story of family and tragedy. Enjoyed the read.’ – Sally, VIC, 4 stars. 

‘1993 – Pam and Mick are an everyday couple. They live in the small country town of Northam, a close knit community where everyone knows everyone else. However a tragic accident involving Pam’s children will have the community divided and some parents feeling alienated. 2016 – Lori and Jason live in suburban Melbourne. They lead ordinary lives bringing up their two young children, in a large city where anonymity is the norm, until a visit from the local police sends Lori’s world into a spin and her past comes crashing in. The storyline of Life Before is gripping as it slowly unfolds when one wrong decision, one moment in time, changes one family’s life forever and leads to a lifetime of regret. The mystery lingers as the reader gets the aftermath of this momentous decision, but not the details of that particular tragic day. We are left to wonder what actually happened. Many themes are explored throughout the novel: small town life, unacceptance of outsiders, parenting teens, facing your past, blood ties and the question: “How responsible is a parent for their child’s actions?” Life Before is an engrossing family drama that had me captivated from the beginning right through to the shocking end.’ – Veronica, NSW, 5 stars. 

I received Life Before to review. The first couple of chapters were quite exciting and I thought the rest of the book would be too. I always love books with fast storylines. Something that is hard for me to stop reading. But in fact, I struggled. I struggled to keep reading as the plot was dragging, I felt. I struggled to keep my interest in it. It felt like a chore to finish reading. Some of the characters in this book were a bit too dull. All in all, it is an alright book for me. It is about family and relationships. It could have been made more interesting if it was not dragging. Good for a beach read, I guess, or for those who prefer something slower in pace.’ – Mira, NSW, 3 stars. 

‘The book was a slow start, giving background to the main story. As such, I took a while to warm up to the book. Overall it was an enjoyable read. Many tragic figures each with their own story, yet some didn’t have enough of their stories to be told e.g. Troy, Jason. I would have liked more background about Jason. The end seemed too rushed.’ – Charmaine, NSW, 4 stars. 

‘Lori Spyker’s life begins to unravel through the gentle storytelling of Carmel Reilly in her new book Life Before. The author’s vivid description of her characters and the scenery of their lives quickly draws you into Lori and her mother Pam’s worlds. A world where one choice can impact the lives of so many people in so many different ways and one secret is kept for so long. Beautifully written and well-paced, the reader is so engrossed in Lori’s life as each part is revealed, until you are left breathless and unsure of what to think at what the very end reveals. At first the pace was a little slow for me as Carmel Reilly sets the scene for the story to unfold but then I realised this made her characters stronger and the story more realistic. The author cleverly reveals each part of the story gently so that her readers can have time to absorb each one before the next happens until the shattering climax and that last secret is revealed. Brilliant!’ – Jackie, VIC, 4 stars. 

Life Before is a fascinating novel. It’s predominately a novel which explores relationships, but Reilly uses some thriller-like techniques to give the novel momentum and shape. It’s not a novel for those looking for a traditional thriller, but it’s a stand out for readers wanting a contemporary novel with depth and power. Lori is a strong and empathetic character, and most readers will find something they recognise in her. In many ways she’s an everywoman: in a happy marriage but sometimes struggling to find time for her husband; loving her kids but sometimes finding the caretaking hard; wanting a career but barely having time for a job. Her dilemma may be uncommon in its details, but the broad picture of a woman tussling with her obligations, wants and needs, is familiar and an accessible way into her head. I really enjoyed Life Before. It’s a really strong character-based novel – the plot is strong and credible, but it’s Lori and Pam’s relationships with themselves and others which give the novel real power. Reilly saves one last kick in the pants for the last page – you’ll want to read the whole novel again in light of your new perceptions. Highly recommended.’ – Lorraine, ACT, 5 stars.

Thanks #BRPreview for an advanced copy in return for an honest review. Life Before is a gripping read and had me from the first page. This is a story not just about Lori and Scott but about the whole Green family. This is a suspenseful read alternating between two tragedies happening in 2016 with Lori as an adult and also back in 1993 when Lori was just 16 years old. Reilly has done a fantastic job in creating her characters. There is a real depth that makes every one relatable in some way. As a reader I found myself being drawn to Pam and feeling all the emotions that she was going through as a mother. Life Before is a compelling read about family, friendships, heartbreak and tragedy and how every one deals with such tragedy differently.’ – Hannah, NT, 4 stars. 

Everyone in a relationship keeps something of themselves back. Mostly these are little secrets we hug to ourselves but sometimes they are huge secrets, something big from the life before. Lori has not spoken to her brother Scott for over twenty years, so on the day the police arrive to tell her he’s in hospital after a hit and run, she doesn’t know what she should do. When she does go to the hospital, the secrets she’s been holding onto for years, begin to unravel. Life Before swings between the past in the Victorian country town of Northam, and the present, in Melbourne, all the while drawing you closer to the devastating events and the secrets that Lori has kept, even from herself. I do love a novel that keeps you guessing, and that little twist at the end, to keep you on your toes, when you thought you had it all worked out. I wholeheartedly recommend Life Before as an excellent read.’ – Danielle, QLD, 4 stars. 

Life Before by Carmel Reilly is an interesting story about families, relationships, secrets, and well-intentioned lies. It slowly drew me in and after a few chapters I found that I had to keep reading at every opportunity to find out just what it was that Lori couldn’t face. I loved the background story and I strongly identified with Lori’s mum, Pam. I felt for them all while they faced terrible circumstances. Well-written; I would recommend this book.’ – Cassandra, QLD, 4 stars. 

Melbourne 2016. Lori Spyker gets some unexpected news about her brother Scott Green who has been injured in a hit and run. Lori doesn’t expect to hear about his brother after 20 years of no contact. Now, all of a sudden, she has to see him in hospital. Carmel Reilly manages to ignite our curiosity about what has made Lori and Scott go their separate ways and never see each other for 20 years by bringing us back to 1993, to their family life and their parents (Pamela and Michael Green). Is Scott’s accident related to their past? How big is this secret which even made Lori keep it from her own husband? This book was brilliantly paced, not fast-paced, but the author opened each question within the story at just the right time and made this book a real page-turner. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Thank you to Better Reading Preview for the advance copy.’ – Vivi, NSW, 5 stars. 

Life Before by Carmel Reilly is a wonderful story which follows the lives of the Green family, and explores how one act or decision can change the course of our lives. It bounces from past to present well throughout the novel, giving the reader a bit more information each time as well as creating more questions. It builds then to a surprising ending which I did not see coming. This is an easy-to-read story that will keep you hooked until the last page.’ – Daneka, QLD, 4 stars. 

When the police turn up on Lori’s doorstep, the last thing she expects is to hear news in relation to her brother. She hasn’t seen Scott in over 20 years, and yet now he has been the victim of a hit and run, and she is his next of kin. What begins then is essentially two stories – Lori’s present-day life in 2016, dealing with the aftermath of Scott’s accident and the memories it brings forth; and also the story of Pam, Lori’s mother, in 1993, that is – the “life before”. It took me a little while to get into this story and whilst I was intrigued, I don’t think I was ever really hooked or invested in the story. I had to force myself to sit down and read, rather than being engrossed and wanting to put life on hold. That said though, I think the beauty of this story lies in the questions it raises in our own lives. How at 18 you are legally classed as an adult, yet you are still far from knowing everything. It’s a reminder of how decisions made then, before you have the knowledge to know and do better, can have life long impacts that you cannot foresee. It’s an interesting reflection on family and running from the past. Whilst I wouldn’t class it as a must-read, it certainly was an interesting read.’ – Tanya, WA, 3 stars. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but in some ways found it really sad. How easily things can change within families and how quickly we can lose the ones we love even when they are right there. The characters in this book are so full and people you probably know in your life. Ordinary people going around their ordinary lives. I loved the way this book moved back and forward from present to past. Sometimes this can be a bit confusing but it was done really well by this author. A very fitting ending to a really emotional book. Well done.’ – Lynne-Maree, VIC, 4 stars. 

Life Before by Carmel Reilly is a great thriller that has family secrets between a brother and sister, who are estranged due to tragedy. Lori Spyker is one day approached by police outside her house. They have come to tell her that her brother Scott Green is in hospital due to a hit and run. Lori was contacted as Scott’s next of kin. In that moment all the terrible memories of one tragic day from her past come back to haunt her. Not only is it a shock to Lori but also the fact that she has not had contact with her brother in decades. Along with the shock is that her family doesn’t know she has a brother and how can she eventually explain it to her husband. Twenty years before when both Scott and Lori were teenagers, a terrible tragedy happened that would tear the family and the community they were living in apart. I enjoyed the book although I found throughout the book that there was an underlying theme of sadness. I could relate to the family dynamic and the mothers’ love for her children. It shows tragedy on the rawest scale.’ – Freda, QLD, 4 stars. 

Carmel Reilly has written the ultimate novel where the past catapults back into your life, slaps you in the face and threatens to knock down the orderly building blocks you have created around yourself. Lori’s neat, orderly life is turned upside down when she learns her brother, whom she has not seen or had contact with for decades, has been in an accident. Lori is confronted with her past and must work out how to rebuild her current life to allow the past in, without losing all she has built for herself since fleeing her hometown. Reilly provides us with an insight into the way one foolish decision made in a moment of thoughtlessness can impact on people’s lives for many years to come, and explores the lies we tell ourselves and others to survive.’ – Mel, NSW, 4 stars.

Carmel Reilly’s Life Before is a very engaging read. An ordinary suburban mother turns out to have an extraordinary past, which she has worked hard to keep buried. Shifting between country Victoria in the early 1990s and suburban Melbourne in 2016, Reilly gradually discloses the secrets of Lori Spyker’s history, keeping the reader hooked until the final reveal. Reilly does a great job of conveying the tensions which exist in small communities – between the long-term residents and recent arrivals in particular. She also convincingly depicts the tedium of suburban life and the stages people move through as they find their place. Lori is a character the reader really cares about, as are the members of her family. The two policemen – Des Robinson in the country and Daniel Levandi in the city – provide stability and draw the threads of the narrative together. I intended to just read for an hour or so when I began Life Before. Instead, I got so engrossed that I read it in a single sitting, ignoring the many demands on my time. That’s the best recommendation I can think of.’ – Penny, VIC, 5 stars. 

I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy this book when I started it because it was a little slow to begin with. I persisted and quite liked it. It’s a family drama about people who are torn apart by a terrible accident. One family from the ‘heights’ of a small town, the other from the ‘flats’. The book is set in two times, 1993 and 2016. The main character Lori learns that her brother who she hasn’t seen for 20 years is in hospital. She keeps this a secret from her husband and you wonder why she does. All is revealed as you get into the story.’ – Vivien, ACT, 3 stars. 

A moving story about how a tragedy changes people forever and how people change in order to survive. I instantly connected with each of the characters and their role in the story. I felt that the story could have been better rounded toward the end. It seemed to finish abruptly with many loose ends. This ending would encourage me to seek out a sequel.’ – Dianne, SA, 3 stars.

In a story spanning years, Life Before by Carmel Reilly explores how people react to circumstances differently. The story involves the blending of two timelines, keeping the audience interested as we question Lori’s estrangement from her brother Scott. Beginning in the present, we meet Lori as she receives the news of her brother’s involvement in a hit and run- despite not having seen him for 20 years. Then, going back in time, we follow Lori and Scott in their ‘life before’. Both timelines run parallel, complementing each other in the development of characterisation, leaving the audience invested in discovering where the ‘after’ begins. Ultimately, this tale of survival, hope, and acceptance shows that you can’t run from the past forever.’ – Amy, QLD, 3 stars.

A gripping and engaging story that took hold of me until the very last page. An emotionally-charged tale regarding the breakdown of an unravelling family and the lives around them. This novel is about secrets, tragedy, forgiveness and the aftermath of an awful incident. The characters in the book touch your heart, especially Pam (mother) who is trying to hold her family together and Lori (daughter) who is trying to heal and find forgiveness. A beautifully written novel. Set aside time, you will devour it. Thank you Better Reading and Allen & Unwin for the advance copy of this book.’ – Karen, NSW, 4 stars. 

‘I found this a great read. The mystery unfolds as we become engaged with a family that could be any Australian family, caught up in a tragic event from one mistake. Beautifully written, the reader is taken in with all aspects of the aftermath, feeling the pain of all characters. A very enjoyable read, although I would have liked to have known more about Scott for the period of twenty years that Lori and he had been estranged, and what happens next. I did not feel I knew him enough and would have liked detail about the future too.’ – Debbie, VIC, 4 stars. 

When I received this book, I didn’t know what to expect. I was, in the end, pleasantly surprised. The book follows the story of an ordinary family torn apart by a terrible series of events. I found myself thinking, often, that this could happen to anyone. For me, this book started off slow. I found that I just couldn’t connect. However, as the story developed, I started to enjoy it and I found myself thinking about it long after I had finished reading. The characters leap off the page and it was delightful to read about such well-developed personalities. The themes entwined throughout – love, loss, family, forgiveness and healing – were explored with respect and honesty. This is a promising first novel.’ – Laura, SA, 3 stars. 

Life Before takes us back to times so many of us have lived through, when life was supposedly more simple, gentle and uncomplicated. Living in a regional Australian town, Pam and Mick Green are bringing up their three teenagers in changing times, where, in a brief moment, their lives and those of many around them are turned upside down. Instead of simplicity they are challenged with hatred and animosity, and their lives will never be the same. 17 years later we meet up with their daughter Lori, and see how the past has influenced the direction her life took. I LOVED this book! Despite the frequent reminders that life is so fragile and unpredictable, the raw emotion that Carmel Reilly delivers draws you to the book like a magnet. I found myself catching my breath on several occasions as I worried about the Greens and the events that took over their lives. My only negative comment is that I was constantly checking to see where the next chapter sat on the timeline in relation to the last. Definitely put Life Before on your reading list.’ – Jane, NSW, 5 stars.

This book was exactly the type of book I would normally go for but as much as I tried I couldn’t get into it. I loved the time jump that happens and I loved the mystery of Lori and her brother, but I couldn’t delve deep enough into the characters or storyline to enjoy it. This was a DNF for me.’ – Kirstie, WA, 1 star.

Life Before is a haunting tale of how life can change in a split second. This compelling narrative is skilfully told through the eyes of a mother and daughter, Pam and Lori, and author Carmel Reilly does a brilliant job bringing these two women to life in order for readers to empathise with their situations. Readers jump amongst decades between chapters in order to see our main protagonists deal with the pivotal moments in their lives, and try to make sense of their choices and the impact they will have on those around them. There is a strong element of mystery and suspense as the truth gradually comes out about the events of the past, proving that nothing can stay hidden forever. A truly beautiful example of modern Australian literature. Thank you so much #BRPreview for the opportunity to read and review this book.’ – Sarah, VIC, 5 stars.

This book centred around the Green family who seem like an everyday family until two tragic events change and then shatter their world. The book alternates between the current day and the past, and all comes together towards the end. The characters were largely likeable with a few different personalities mixed in. I identified with Pam Green (mum) juggling work and family life raising three teenagers. I found the book easy to follow but interesting enough that I didn’t want to put it down as I wanted to learn more about this family and their lives. It provoked emotions of humour and shock, mixed in with a family I think most people would relate to. The family loyalty and tight bond of the Green family was the compelling core of the story for me.’ – Judy, SA, 4 stars.

Thank you Better Reading for giving me the opportunity to read and review Life Before by Carmel Reilly. Life Before is the first novel by Carmel Reilly; her extensive experience as an educational writer is evident, as the writing in this novel is elegant and insightful. I would recommend this book for lovers of literature about family, trauma, and forgiveness. Written from two points of view (Lori and her mother Pam), at two different time points, the narrative is compelling. I look forward to future work by Carmel Reilly.’ – Louise, VIC, 4 stars. 

Carmel Reilly’s Life Before is an intriguing novel exploring the aftermath of tragedy and the complex relationships among families. When police arrive at Lori’s house to let her know her brother Scott has been in an accident, she is shocked – not least because she hasn’t spoken to him in over a decade. We soon learn Scott has a troubled past, having served jail time for a car accident that killed his best mate when they were teenagers. Lori’s parents and older brother Simon are also dead, meaning Lori is the only surviving relative. Told in alternating chapters from the past and present, the story of the past gradually unravels, finally revealing why Lori has fallen out of contact with her brother and the true extent of the tragedies that have struck their family. More could be made of the renewed connection between Lori and Scott, and some loose ends are not quite tied up or fully explained, but this is a great read exploring the lasting effects of trauma, our attempts to create new lives for ourselves and the importance of family.’ – Laura, NSW, 4 stars.

This book gives a wonderful examination of the impact of trauma and secrets on a family. A bit of a slow start but stick with it for the beautifully interwoven storylines and masterful descriptions.’ – Emma, VIC, 4 stars. 

Tragic events in a small Victorian town lead to unexpected connections more than twenty years later in Life Before by Carmel Reilly. Reilly carefully captures the reality of life in a small rural community, of belonging or not belonging, of being part of the established order or of being a newcomer, an outsider. When an unexpected event impacts the town, loyalties are tested, families are divided and nothing will ever be the same again. Passing decades lay secrets to rest until the sudden intersection of past lives brings everything into sharp focus. Reilly leads us step by step to piece together all the dark details of so long ago to allow us to join up the dots and try to unravel the motivations of her characters. Each person is finely drawn to ensure our connection to the events is real and compelling. How would we deal with such stresses? What would be the impact of the shattering consequences of that dark night, if the same events were to happen to us? Reilly provides us with multiple points of views to allow us to explore the possibilities. As the story progresses rapidly towards its conclusion, Reilly surprises us with plot twists and turns at every junction. A real page-turner!’ – Chris, QLD, 4 stars. 

A great read! I loved the flip between past and present and seeing the family dynamics of Lori’s past. The buildup to the situation that led to Lori not having a relationship with her brother was edge-of-your-seat family drama. I was constantly wanting to skip forward to see what had made Lori not even keep tabs on her brother, but I resisted and just let the story flow. Really enjoyed Life Before, looking forward to more of this author’s work.’ – Hanadi, NSW, 4 stars. 

Life Before is a fascinating then-and-now look at Lori (Loren) and her life, and to some extent, that of her brother, Scott. With each glimpse into the past we begin to see the story of what happened, and how it affected Lori (and Scott). As secrets started to unravel so did my longing for everything to end up okay, and for the siblings’ reconciliation and reconnection… On a lighter note, having grown up in country Victoria I also appreciated the local references to Shep (Shepparton) and Wang (Wangaratta). So Victorian!’ – Ayesha, NSW, 3 stars. 

‘Move over Tim Winton, there’s a new author on the block. This beautifully rendered novel deftly explores the complexities of small-town living and the anonymity of big-city life, weaving in relatable ideas of love, life and family. Such a wonderful journey and an absolute blessing to read.’ – Kirsten, WA, 4 stars. 

Life Before is a well-written novel where the imagery comes to life on the page. It’s a reflective novel on the Green family told from two different perspectives, the mother and the daughter in the past and the present, and revolves around the effects of a family tragedy in the then and now. I am not usually a big fan of novels written in two different timelines and it was a slow beginning, but I am glad I persevered as it was well worth reading until the end.’ – Katrina, QLD, 4 stars. 

Carmel Reilly’s Life Before is a fascinating exploration of family relationships and the fall-out from one tragic night that has repercussions lasting decades into the future. It reflects the trauma and devastation that affects so many more people than the road toll would suggest. As a mother, this book presents some of the worst situations imaginable, of course nothing good can come from the police knocking on the door in the early morning. Lori is a very relatable character, fiercely trying to forget the past although it seems to have a sneaky way of creeping back! I would highly recommend Life Before and will be looking for more of Carmel Reilly’s novels!’ – Imogen, VIC, 5 stars. 

Not sure about my feelings about Life Before. I did enjoy reading this but it wasn’t a ‘wow’. I also could picture my book club having a great discussion about Life Before. As soon as I started reading I thought ‘Awesome I’m liking this’, and just needed to know why the policeman was knocking on the car window. From here I did not want to put the book down because wanting to know the deep family secrets that the main character was hiding kept me reading. I did find that after the first part of the book it started to drag a bit, but I’m glad that I kept reading because it hooked me in again. I liked the way Carmel Reilly went from 1993 to 2016 retelling the story of Lori and depicting life in a small country town in Australia where everyone knows everyone, and then moving to Melbourne to hide from a tragic accident and starting all over again. Oh how hard that would be to do.. . and then, a knock on the window brings your past back – a past that you have hidden in your new life. If you like a book with real-life characters that have secrets and go through family tragedy, I would give Life Before a go.’ – Maria, SA, 3 stars.

I found this book hard to get into – I enjoyed the beginning of the book, but felt the story was too complex for my liking. Each chapter jumped to a different time period, which usually I don’t mind, but I found it hard keeping up with the story. There were secrets that had been kept for a long time, but were now resurfacing. Even though it would not be a book I would normally read, I felt it was written in a language that made you feel part of the story.’ – Stacey, NSW, 2 stars.


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