Quinn O’Malley is supposed to be happy. She has just said yes to a marriage proposal from a wonderful man, is a successful New York attorney on the fast track with an entire career and lush life ahead of her, but despite all of these things she is still plagued by nightmares which seem to suggest that she might be in the process of making a terrible mistake.
I was concerned when I started to read this novel because I really disliked Quinn and all of her friends and co-workers. She has grown up in a privileged existence and it shows in all of the worst ways. Her entitled and ridiculous behavior reached out and grated on me from the page, and I wondered just what I had gotten myself into. I really thought that I wouldn’t like her book at all.
Empathizing with and even starting to like Quinn the tiniest bit are a testament to the skill of this talented author, and I am amazed she is a new kid on the block and that this is her first novel. As I continued reading Life After Yes, I was amazed by Donnelley Rowley’s unflinching yet layered exposition of Quinn as she navigates New York post-9/11 in an attempt to figure out whether the choices that she is making will lead to a fulfilling life, live with leftover remnants of her fear in the wake of tragedy, make peace in her relationship with her mother, and come to grips with the death of her father in the Twin Towers- arguably the most important person in her life.
In portraying Quinn’s growth and yet highlighting the incompleteness of that growth, Donnelley Rowley invites the reader to connect with the character through our understanding of our own complexities, human frailty, and the convoluted reasons we give for our actions when we are just trying so hard to make life work. Life After Yes deftly straddles the line between offering a few of the lighter elements of contemporary women’s fiction, while still addressing serious issues of loss, finding the right partner, and finding the balance in family and career goals. Donnelley Rowley also examines alcohol and overwork as common ways that we anesthetize ourselves, and the inherent dangers that come with not facing your life. The character of Quinn O’Malley is spectacularly imperfect, but she was never boring and I always wanted to know what her next step would be and quickly became invested in my role as reader and cheerleader for her growth. And for me, that makes for a great read! Highly Recommended.