Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky


Taking her eyes off the road for a moment is all it took to change the life of Mackenzie Cooper forever. Her car crashed into another, killing her daughter. The loss of her marriage, family, and friends came soon afterwards. Now she’s living a new life in Vermont as Maggie Reid, working as makeup artist in a luxury spa. Her new friends know nothing about her past, and Maggie is enjoying life out of the spotlight… until her friend’s son is accused of a crime. Maggie is faced with a difficult choice: she can be there for her friend, and risk the truth about her past being outed, or protect her secrets at all costs… including the loss of yet another treasured friendship.

I’ve read several of Delinsky’s novels over the years, and have always found them to be enjoyable.  I expected the same of Before and Again, and was not at all surprised to be immediately drawn into the story, which kicks off with a prologue that takes place mere minutes before the crash that killed Mackenzie’s daughter. The simple ordinariness of what takes place before the accident made this brief scene one of the most memorable in the book (for me), because it felt so devastatingly true-to-life.

The emotional impact of this scene made for a high standard for the remainder of the book—would it be able to pack such an emotional punch again, or would it pale in comparison? I’m happy to report that it did, producing some jaw-dropping plot twists along the way that were every bit as intense as the opening scene.

I found Mackenzie (or Maggie, as she later chose to be known) so easy to relate to, and I was full of empathy for her. The lingering pain she felt over the loss of her daughter, the depth of her grief over it, had me pondering how I would have felt in her place—knowing I would probably be feeling the same level of hurt and regret. The death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, and it would be such a struggle to move forward from that, especially if you also lost all the close relationships you had, as well. Mackenzie’s pain broke my heart, and I just wanted to jump into the book and give her a hug. Despite the other plot points involving Mackenzie, it was this core part of her character I keep remembering now, so long after I finished the last page.

The storyline involving her friend Grace’s son was very well done. It created some conflict for Mackenzie, as well as (eventually) dropping a shocking twist that explains a lot about some things that didn’t quite add up about Grace’s behavior. Another intriguing storyline involved Mackenzie’s issues with the spa’s new owner, which made her life that much more difficult.

Before and Again is a great read. Delinsky’s writing was is superb/ The characters and situations she created for them are vivid, beautifully flawed, and—above all else—completely believable in every way. Well done, Ms. Delinsky… very well done.

If you haven’t read this novel yet, what are you waiting for? You don’t want to miss out on this wonderful book!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley.


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Author: Barbara Delinsky
Title: Before and Again
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published: June 26, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of Blueprints and Sweet Salt Air, a brand-new novel about a woman in hiding finding the courage to face the world again.

Mackenzie Cooper took her eyes off the road for just a moment but the resulting collision was enough to rob her not only of her beloved daughter but ultimately of her marriage, family, and friends—and thanks to the nonstop media coverage, even her privacy. Now she lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid, in a small house with her cats and dog. She’s thankful for the new friends she’s made—though she can’t risk telling them too much. And she takes satisfaction in working as a makeup artist at the luxurious local spa, helping clients hide the visible outward signs of their weariness, illnesses, and injuries. Covering up scars is a skill she has mastered.

Her only goal is to stay under the radar and make it through her remaining probation. But she isn’t the only one in this peaceful town with secrets. When a friend’s teenage son is thrust into the national spotlight, accused of hacking a powerful man’s Twitter account, Maggie is torn between pulling away and protecting herself—or stepping into the glare to be at their side. As the stunning truth behind their case is slowly revealed, Maggie’s own carefully constructed story begins to unravel as well. She knows all too well that what we need from each other in this difficult world is comfort. But to provide it, sometimes we need to travel far outside our comfort zones.

From a multimillion-selling master of women’s fiction, Before and Again is a story of the relationships we find ourselves in—mothers and daughters, spouses and siblings, true companions and fair-weather friends—and what kind of sacrifices we are or aren’t willing to make to sustain them through good times and bad.

About the Author

BARBARA DELINSKY was born Barbara Ruth Greenberg in 1945 near Boston, Massachusetts. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Tufts University and an M.A. in Sociology at Boston College. Following graduate school, she was a researcher for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Delinsky also worked as a photographer and reporter for the Belmont Herald and discovered she enjoyed writing more than picture-taking. After reading a newspaper article about female novelists, she decided to try writing a book herself. Three months later, Delinsky sold her first book, and since then, millions of copies of her bestselling novels have been published. In 2001, Delinsky wrote her first non-fiction work, Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors. Her profits from the book fund an ongoing research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Delinsky lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

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