Between Before and After || Book Review

Title: Between Before and After
Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Blink
No. of pages: Hardcover, 304
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Date Read: February 2, 2019
Rating: 4/5

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Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions.

Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future.


Thanks to Blink for sending me a review copy of the book. Between Before and After is a generational story following the lives of mother and daughter. I really liked seeing how everything in this book pieced itself together. It was a fun sort of mystery to find the truth.

Between Before and After follows Molly Fitzgerald during the summer of 1955 and the history of her mother, Elaine Donnelly, during the years of 1918-1920. Molly’s parents have recently split and she’s concerned about her mother’s growing depression and outbursts. That all seems to come to head when her Uncle Stephen is believed to have performed a miracle on one of his students and is investigated, people from the community beginning to talk, a mysterious blue car seems for have started stopping to watch their house, and her best friend seems to have decided to not have anything to do with her. Molly, begins to investigate her mother’s past as she’s so keen to keep it quiet and believes that it might be the cause of her mother’s actions. As she searches, she finds more than she probably bargained for. Elaine’s story that is interspersed with Molly’s begins where her problem’s started: Her mother and sister’s death due to influenza. From there’s it’s a domino effect. Her father begins to not be around, she’s left to take care of her brother, she’s forced to get a job, and she meets the handsome son of her employer that she plans her future around only to have it fall down around her. When both stories collide, it’s in a way that seems like an impossibility. Molly and her mother have more in common than Molly previously thought, and she begins to see how she (out of everyone) probably understands her mother best.

For me, the beginning of the book was pretty slow, but once I finished I realized that truly, the story had to be set up in order for the reader to grasp what was happening. I really liked that it was split between the two stories. Molly’s story was presented in the first person, while Elaine’s was presented in the third. It was super easy to realize what part of the story it was in and who it was about. I also really liked seeing both stories unfold and then collide. I really wasn’t prepared and had no idea that the twist was about to come, but I’m really glad that it happened the way it did.

Another thing that I really liked about this story was the fact that it was presented in a way that showed the generational gap. You see in Elaine’s story how difficult it was in the late 1900s, early 1920s how difficult it was to survive common place illnesses like the flu, how even then it was difficult to survive on wages back then, how common it was that children were orphaned and forced to do whatever necessary to survive. After reading, it seemed as though Elaine wanted to spare her children the pain of knowing what she went through, cause boy she went through a TIME. Molly, not knowing this, clearly had it a bit easier. She had her mother and father living, by this time just a few years prior they released the flu vaccine to the public, her biggest ‘problem’ at the start of the book was that she was going to take a ‘C’ in English, and her best friend deserted her when everything happened with her Uncle. To see the differences in how each had it when they were around the same age was interesting. My mom tells stories all the time about how things used to be when she was growing up. Things I couldn’t even imagine doing today. I think it really did justice in showing that even though there was that generational gap, Molly and her mother had more in common that she originally thought.

I also really liked this story as a whole as well. I was so well done and I loved being able to slowly things start to piece itself together. There were times where I needed to know what was going to happen next, that I couldn’t stop reading. McQuerry has written a story that truly bridges a gap and one that is super well written.

Between Before and After released on February 5th! I definitely recommend this if you’re looking for something that is historical fiction or looking for a read that will keep you guessing up until the end.


Maureen McQuerry is an award-winning poet, novelist, and teacher. Her YA novel, The Peculiars, was an ALA Best Book for YA 2013, Bank Street and Horn Book recommended book, and a winner of the Westchester Award. Her most recent books are a MG fantasy duo: Beyond the Door, a Booklist top Ten Fantasy/SciFi for Youth, and The Telling Stone, a finalist for the WA State Book awards. Her poetry appears in journals and anthologies including The Southern Review, Smartish Pace, WA129, and Georgetown Review. She lives in Washington State.

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