Life Before by Carmel Reilly: Your Better Reading Preview Verdict

Life Before by Carmel Reilly: Your Better Reading Preview Verdict

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. Take a look at these stellar reviews:

Life Before is a thought-provoking novel, where the past finally catches up with Lori 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.’ – Deborah, NSW, 5 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!’ – Nenny, VIC, 5 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.

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.

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.’ – Sarah, VIC, 5 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.

Read all the Preview reviews for Life Before here.


Suspense and family secrets surround a pair of estranged siblings in a compelling debut thriller.She knew she should talk to him. But what was she to say? Once there had been blame to apportion, rage to hurl. Now she no longer had a sense of that. Who knew what the facts of them being here together like this meant. What was she to make of the situation? Scott lying unconscious here in this bed, unknown to her in almost every way. She now a wife, a mother, but in her mind no longer a sister. Not a sister for a very long time now.Lori Spyker is taking her kids to school one unremarkable day when a policeman delivers the news that her brother, Scott Green, has been injured and hospitalised following a hit and run.Lori hasn't seen Scott in decades. She appears to be his only contact. Should she take responsibility for him? Can she? And, if she does, how will she tell her own family about her hidden history, kept secret for so long?Twenty years before, when she and Scott were teenagers, their lives and futures, and those of their family, had been torn to shreds. Now, as Lori tries to piece together her brother's present, she is forced to confront their shared past-and the terrible and devastating truth buried there that had driven them so far apart.Compassionate, wise and shocking, Life Before tells the gripping story of an ordinary family caught in a terrible situation. What if the worst thing you can imagine isn't the worst thing to happen? How do you go on? And what steps will you take to protect yourself from further pain?
Carmel Reilly
About the author

Carmel Reilly

Carmel Reilly is one of Australia's busiest educational writers, with over 300 titles to her name. She has written a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction for ages five to teens, with subjects that encompass topics from democracy, global cultures and the solar system to everyday life, adventurous aliens and silly superheros.Outside of writing for children, she won the 2013 Partners in Crime Short Story Award for her entry Another Life. In 2016 she was awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship, and was shortlisted for a 2018 Varuna Publisher Introduction Program Fellowship. Life Before is Carmel's first novel for adults. She currently lives in Melbourne.

Books by Carmel Reilly


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