Friday, 15 March 2019

Book Review: Life Before (Crime/Mystery) #BRPreview

Life Before
Carmel Reilly

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 6th May 2019
Pages: 352
Price: $29.99
Format Read: Uncorrected proof copy
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading Preview 

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.


1993 - Pam and Mick are an everyday couple, married with three teenage children. 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 (Melbournites will find themselves surrounded by familiar scenes here), 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.

Life Before is a compelling mystery. Reilly conveys, through this page-turner, the lengths a person will go to forget a tragic past. Lori completely reinvented herself when she met Jason, blocking out her past, avoiding questions a telling a few white lies. Yet, when Lori starts to let the barriers down people begin to tell her how unhappy and closed off she always seemed.

The storyline of Life Before is gripping as it slowly unfolds with what starts as an ordinary family when one wrong decision, one moment in time, changes their lives 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 day. We are left to wonder what actually happened that night.

Many themes are explored throughout the novel; small town life, nonacceptance of outsiders, parenting teens, facing your past, blood ties and the question: “How responsible is a parent for their child’s actions?”

Both timelines are told in a female point of view; 1993 through Pam and 2016 through Lori, which gave me the feeling that while not actually being women’s fiction it would appeal more to a female readership.

I like that both Pam & Mick and Lori & Jason had good strong supportive relationships and banded together in times of stress. It’s so easy to add extra drama to a story by having a husband and wife against each other and I’m so pleased that Reilly didn’t go down that road.

I would have liked a little more on Scott’s life as we only get a small peek into his home and that left me wanting more.

Life Before is an engrossing family drama that had me captivated from the beginning right through to the shocking end.

My rating 9/10

*This review is: 
Part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
& Book #5 in the Australian Women Writers Challenge

 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. 




  1. I'll put this on the want to read list

  2. Great review. You have peke my interest. I will have to find it and read it. This is the type of books I love.

  3. I don't read many family dramas. This sounds good though. Great review.

  4. Sounds like an amazing read. I'll check it out ☺

  5. Super intriguing :) I haven't read many Australian books but I'll be adding this one to my list.

  6. excellent review - I wants it!