“A seductive twist on the timeless tale of a couple trying to rediscover love in a marriage brought low by the challenges of domestic togetherness…touching, perceptive, and achingly honest.” —Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.
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Read an Excerpt
After I Do
We are in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium, and once again, Ryan has forgotten where we left the car. I keep telling him that it’s in Lot C, but he doesn’t believe me.
“No,” he says, for the tenth time. “I specifically remember turning right when we got here, not left.”
It’s incredibly dark, the path in front of us lit only by lampposts featuring oversized baseballs. I looked at the sign when we parked.
“You remember wrong,” I say, my tone clipped and pissed-off. We’ve already been here too long, and I hate the chaos of Dodger Stadium. It’s a warm summer night, so I have that to be thankful for, but it’s ten P.M., and the rest of the fans are pouring out of the stands, the two of us fighting through a sea of blue and white jerseys. We’ve been at this for about twenty minutes.
“I don’t remember wrong,” he says, walking ahead and not even bothering to look back at me as he speaks. “You’re the one with the bad memory.”
“Oh, I see,” I say, mocking him. “Just because I lost my keys this morning, suddenly, I’m an idiot?”
He turns and looks at me; I use the moment to try to catch up to him. The parking lot is hilly and steep. I’m slow.
“Yeah, Lauren, that’s exactly what I said. I said you were an idiot.”
“I mean, you basically did. You said that you know what you’re talking about, like I don’t.”
“Just help me find the goddamn car so we can go home.”
I don’t respond. I simply follow him as he moves farther and farther away from Lot C. Why he wants to go home is a mystery to me. None of this will be any better at home. It hasn’t been for months.
He walks around in a long, wide circle, going up and down the hills of the Dodger Stadium parking lot. I follow close behind, waiting with him at the crosswalks, crossing at his pace. We don’t say anything. I think of how much I want to scream at him. I think of how I wanted to scream at him last night, too. I think of how much I’ll probably want to scream at him tomorrow. I can only imagine he’s thinking much of the same. And yet the air between us is perfectly still, uninterrupted by any of our thoughts. So often lately, our nights and weekends are full of tension, a tension that is only relieved by saying good-bye or good night.
After the initial rush of people leaving the parking lot, it becomes a lot easier to see where we are and where we parked.
“There it is,” Ryan says, not bothering to point for further edification. I turn my head to follow his gaze. There it is. Our small black Honda.
Right in Lot C.
I smile at him. It’s not a kind smile.
He smiles back. His isn’t kind, either.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for After I Do includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Read through Lauren’s flashbacks of her and Ryan’s relationship, leading up to the night of the Dodgers game. At what point did you notice a shift in their dynamic? Discuss with the group.
2. Early in the novel, Lauren playfully says of Ryan–“He always loved making me say the things he wanted to say.” In what ways does this become a loaded assessment of their relationship?
3. Turn to page 135, when Lauren and her mother are discussing marriage. Lauren says that she doesn’t want to fail at her marriage, which her mother dismisses: “If you stay married for a number of years and you have a happy time together and then you decide you don’t want to be married anymore and you choose to go be happy with someone else or doing something else, that’s not a failure.” Do you agree with her?
4. Even though the underlying question of the narrative is whether Lauren and Ryan’s marriage will survive, Ryan himself is not an active character for the majority of the novel, and we spend much of our time with other people in Lauren’s life. How does observing Lauren in these dynamics enhance our understanding of her? And did you have a favorite supporting character?
5. What do you think Lauren gets out of her relationship with David? Is the fact that he is separated from his wife integral to their dynamic?
6. Did Rachel’s revelation on page 241 surprise you? Do you have any relationships like hers and Lauren’s in your life–where the similarities are so clear that the differences can be ignored, sometimes to a fault?
7. Discuss the theme of communication within the novel. To what degree do these characters struggle to express themselves, and how do they find alternative ways of doing so when straight dialogue doesn’t suffice?
8. Turn to page 251 and re-read the conversation that Rachel and Lauren have with their mother about romance and long-term relationships. Do you understand Ms. Spencer’s perspective that, “I don’t need a life partner…I want love and romance.” Can romance be kept alive by forestalling a greater commitment, or is it “the nature of love” as Lauren suggests, for relationships to “become more about partnership and less about romance”?
9. Discuss the role that sex plays in Lauren and Ryan’s relationship, and how it relates to the feelings of resentment that she describes on page 288. If romance is, in fact, destined to evolve into more of a partnership, what happens to sex in that equation? Is romance required for a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship?
10. Even though Lauren and Ryan don't have children, the potential demise of their relationship still has collateral damage. Turn to page 272, and the conversation that Lauren has with her brother about inviting Ryan to his wedding. Do you think Lauren has a right to an opinion here? Do you agree with her statement that, “I made him a part of this family…and he’s a part of this family on my terms”?
11. Thinking about Ryan, Lauren says: “We have spent enough years together to know how to work in sync, even when we don’t want to.” To what extent is a long-term relationship defined by whether the other person is someone that you know how to endure the tough moments of life with? Find examples within the novel to support your opinion.
12. Lauren gets relationship advice from a variety of people throughout the novel. Did any of it in particular resonate with you? Pick a favorite line and share why you connected to it with the group.
13. Speaking of advice: the Ask Allie column plays a large role throughout the book. Was Lauren able to take any wisdom from Allie’s old columns that perhaps a closer friend or family member couldn’t have said to her directly? What did you think of her final letter to Lauren?
14. Consider the romantic partnerships that Lauren has to look to as models: her mother and Bill, Charlie and Natalie, Mila and Christina, even her grandmother and deceased grandfather. What does she take away from each of them?
15. Discuss the portrayal of compromise in the novel, and compare how it is depicted in romantic relationships versus within family dynamics. Do you think of compromise differently when it comes to family members, as opposed to romantic partners? Why or why not?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel, Forever, Interrupted as a group. How are these love stories different? Having now read two of Reid’s novels, what can you identify as distinct qualities of her writing style?
2. The emails that Ryan and Lauren write each other but never send prove to be very cathartic to both of them. If you could write to someone you’ve been romantically involved with (in the past or currently), knowing that they might read it but that they couldn’t confront you about it, what would you say?
3. The book makes the point that “marriage” is a word that has many different definitions. Whether you are married or unmarried, what does marriage mean to you?
4. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, about marriage and family?