BOOK CLUB: Life Before

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Author: Carmel Reilly
ISBN: 978 1 76052 931 4
Publication Date: May 2019
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

This guest review was submitted by Lorraine Cormack, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lorraine. The review has also been previously published on Lorraine’s personal blog.


“Life Before” is a fascinating novel. It’s predominately a novel which explores relationships, but Reilly uses some thriller-like techniques to give the novel momentum and shape. It’s not a novel for those looking for a traditional thriller, but it’s a stand out for readers wanting a contemporary novel with depth and power.

Lori Spyker is trying to get her kids out of the house and on the way to school when the police visit to advise her that her brother Scott has been seriously injured in a hit and run accident. This is disturbing news for a number of reasons: Lori hasn’t seen or spoken to her brother for decades. In fact, she’s never told her husband that he exists. Being reminded of Scott brings up memories of the traumatic events that led her to cut Scott out of her life.

She can’t just ignore him, though. She appears to be his only contact, and the police want her help to work out why he was run down, and by whom. It’s a moral dilemma too – what does she owe a brother she no longer knows? What will be the impact on her new life if she has to reveal her past?

Lori is a strong and empathetic character, and most readers will find something they recognise in her. In many ways she’s an everywoman: in a happy marriage but sometimes struggling to find time for her husband; loving her kids but sometimes finding the caretaking hard; wanting a career but barely having time for a job. Her dilemma may be uncommon in its’ details, but the broad picture of a woman tussling with her obligations, wants and needs, is familiar and an accessible way into her head.

The novel alternates between the current day and the events of the early 1990s. In both time lines the pictures of family life are vivid and loving. Lori’s mother, Pam, emerges as the central character of the earlier period, and she’s as well rounded and recognisable a character as Lori. As a result, both storylines are compelling. Reilly has woven them together well; the novel flows exceptionally well despite the constant changes in time.

Towards the end, where multiple storylines are drawn together, some readers may feel that too many are pulled together – in real life, not everything is connected. For me this was something of a blip – I did feel it was a little too much, but Reilly did not dwell on this too much, so I was able to forgive it. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but I will say that there was one connection too many for me to be comfortable with.

However, I really enjoyed “Life Before”. It’s a really strong character based novel – the plot is strong and credible, but it’s Lori and Pam’s relationships with themselves and others which give the novel real power. Reilly saves one last kick in the pants for the last page – you’ll want to read the whole novel again in light of your new perceptions. Highly recommended.

Life Before is available now through Allen & Unwin and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Life Before so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

17 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Life Before

  1. Life Before is the story of siblings Loren and Scott. Loren hasn’t spoken to Scott in many years, So many in fact that she doesn’t even know if he is still alive.
    Until a policeman shows up on her street looking for her.
    Her brother Scott is in hospital and the only next of kin they have is Loren.

    I found Life Before was a little slow, constantly jumping back and forth from the Loren of today to teenage Loren, I kept waiting for the big secret to come out. I enjoyed getting to know the family and what happened to lead Loren to not speaking to her brother however it was just such a long slog to get to the juicy bits.

    Once all was revealed I found the story all the more heartbreaking. I would of loved to know what happens now, does Scott survive? Are Loren and Scott on speaking terms? I’d love another book with more

  2. Carmel Reilly is a refreshing writer and I loved this book because it wasn’t obvious what happens which made me want to read more and more.
    It was easy to follow going back and forth from 1993 to 2016 making you wanting to read next chapter.
    Really gives you an insight on how people deal with their emotions and how quick one split decision can happen to change people lives forever.
    Was very heartbreaking towards the end as everything came to light of what really happened and would love a sequel to this book as I wanted to read more and didn’t want it to end.
    Highly recommended read and cleverly written by Carmel Reilly.
    Thankyou Allen and Unwin and Beauty and Lace Book Club for this beauty!

  3. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin I was lucky enough to review “life before” by Carmel Reilly.

    A story of love, tragedy and also forgiveness. The story goes back and forth from July 1993 and then more recent April 2016. Brother and Sister, (Scott and Loren) are very close siblings and do most things together. Then there is Scott’s best friend Troy who is often tagging along with them.

    Until one fateful night when there is an accident and breaks them all apart, including starting a feud between two families. Even more tragedy strikes for Scott and Loren’s family in the months following the accident.. Loren has a lot of blame for Scott after these terrible incidents and no longer wants to know him, let along have him as brother. She moves away and forgets about him. So much so that when she got married and had children she still did not mention anything about Scott to her husband.

    That is until Scott is involved in a motorbike accident in April 2016, and the only family member the Police have to contact is Loren. After over 20 years of “forgetting” Scott, she now needs to make a choice to either forgive the past and be there for Scott or again just walk away.

    Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. I found it kept you interested the whole way through and wanting to keep reading to find out what happens. I really liked that the last paragraph really explained all about the accident and the book didn’t leave you without any real answers.

  4. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for a copy of this book.

    Life Before is an interesting, heart wrenching story about a family torn apart by tragedy.

    I found it a little slow to start with initially but once the story started flowing, it was hard to put down.

    It was well written and had some great twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

    A great read overall.

  5. The story begins in 1993 A local policeman has to deliver devastating news ( no spoilers ) to families,

    The Green family are just a normal everyday family getting on with life, when this tragedy occurs which turns their life upside down, also living in a small town makes this incredibly hard as people take sides,

    This novel is about families tragedy resentment forgiveness and secrets that eventually catch up with you

    The chapters in the book go from 1993 – 2016 but a very easy book to read

    Carmel Reilly has written a beautiful book which I throughly enjoyed reading

  6. I did enjoy reading this book but it was slow going and jumping back and forth between past and present.
    I was rather disappointed in the ending it just stopped. Left you wondering how the brother was and if Loren and Jason make it work and what happens with Jason’s business.
    But overall a good read. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read it.

  7. Thank you BeautyandLace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read and review Life Before by Carmel Reilly.
    Although I found the story was a bit of a slow to start , once I invested more time into reading, I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down.
    Life Before is about a brother and sister that had not had contact with other since a family tragedy tore their lives apart.
    Now, decades later, Lori Spyker, has made a new life and has family of her own. Due to her estranged brother having a life threatening accident and Lori being the next of kin, she is forced to see him again. Lori is immediately thrown back into her past, the terrible past she had suppressed and kept hidden from her new family.

    I liked the fact that there was two time lines, telling each part of the story, the past and present, it kept me guessing how the stories would converge and tie in together.

    I found the story very heart wrenching and sad how a tragic event had such severe repercussions on all of the characters. Over all a really enjoyable book. I couldn’t wait to find out how it played out.
    I do like books that make me think….it left me wondering whether the siblings would put their past behind them and venture into a new relationship, a fresh start perhaps?
    I really enjoyed all the characters and I thought it was a good story told well, a great read!

  8. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for a copy of this book.
    ‘Life Before’ is a story about families and mistakes. How a simple mistake can have enormous consequences and from thereafter tear the lives of family members apart. The story starts with a policeman delivering tragic news to a local family and from there weaves the tale of various family members and the communities they live in.

    The story is written from different perspectives and at different timelines but I found this easy to follow and engaging. I don’t want to give too much away because the story reveals itself through various people’s eyes and experiences and with such emotion that you have to read it to experience it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

  9. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin For the opportunity to read this book.

    My feelings on this book are a bit mixed but overall it was a good read.

    I enjoyed the storyline following both Loren in present day and back in 1993. I am always draw in where there is an element of mystery and this book didn’t disappoint.

    While I liked the ending I need to know more, would of loved an epilogue.

  10. May 2019 selection
    Beauty and Lace Book Club 17, June, 2019
    Book Review: Life Before by Carmel Reilly
    This book begins with a visit from the police who just want some answers but are they asking the right questions is it a crime or is it a mystery they are dealing with. Looking at life from two viewpoints, one before with an average suburban family and their daily activities and the other viewpoint discussing ‘Life Before’ in current time, written in such a way to keep you guessing till the very end.
    This story shows how one simple mistake can affect the future in so many ways, devastating but a gripping read, leaving you wanting to know more about what happens afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
    Thank you Beauty & Lace and Allen & Unwin, for the opportunity to read and review Carmel Reilly’s “Life Before”

  11. I really loved this book!

    It’s 2016 and the story starts with Lori who is married and has two kids. One day she finds out that her brother has been involved in an accident and is in hospital. Lori is listed as his next of kin and she has very mixed feelings about going to see him. Something bad happened before her current life and she hasn’t had any contact with him for 20 years,

    The story then jumps back to 1993 and we meet Pam – Lori’s mother. The story is told from her point of view. We find that Lori is a typical 16 year old and we start to find out the life that she had before and why she has become estranged from her brother.

    I loved the mystery surrounding the story. What could possibly have happened that would cause this rift? It will keep you guessing to the end!

    It was really easy to read and I highly recommend it.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read it.

  12. Life Before by Carmel Reilly is an in depth look into an Australian family in the before and after a certain incident.
    We are taken on a journey through the nineties when Lori and Scott are young and carefree, then in total contrast we are shown their lives today in the here and now.
    Boy can things change.
    The author explores human emotion and how some things just cant be forgotten, by all involved.
    I enjoyed reading this book, but I have to say that it wasnt a traditional, edge of your seat, thriller. Rather something that I could really sink my teeth in to.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace for allowing me to review this book.

  13. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.
    Even though it started out slow, I thoroughly enjoyed the different time lines and the emotion of this book
    I enjoyed all the characters and was very interested to see how everything played out.
    Overall I would recommend this book to my fellow reading friends.

  14. Thank you Beauty and lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.
    Life Before is a captivating story about a family in crisis. Its a great story about how one mistake can change many lives.
    I did enjoy reading this book, however I was disappointed with the abrupt end which left many questions unanswered.
    It was beautifully written, I give it 3.5 stars.

  15. “Life Before” centres around Lori & her brother Scott, wo have been estranged for over 20 years after a family tragedy tore them apart.

    Lori is going about her life in Melbourne in 2016 when a visit from the police forces her to confront her demons from the past. Scott is back and he’s in hospital after a serious accident.

    I loved how this book gave me a touch of nostalgia, it had me travelling back to the early 90’s as a teenager in high school.

    It kept going back and forth between 2016 & 1993, when ‘life before’ a terrible car accident seemed so much simpler.

    I liked how it all tied together in the end, although I did want a little more resolution with the hubby’s work problems (I guess we presume it all works out).

    This was a very well-written , great Aussie saga, highly recommend.

  16. Life Before by Carmel Reilly. A little slow to start but once you start to learn about the characters it sucks you in on this Australian drama.

    Lori was estranged from her brother after a tragic accident however was suddenly pulled back into his life and re-living memories of the past. Her story parallels the life of her mother, Pam, who gives you a full sense of where Lori has come from and why she is the way she is.

    Lori was left with the decision as she sat next to the hospital bed of her brother, does she let him in, or walk away again.

    This book was slow to start but once it got going it had me hooked. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for giving me the opportunity to read and review.

  17. I found it really hard to get into at first started slow but kept persisting. I also found in the begining going back & fourth in the years a bit confusing.

    Was a good read.

    Thank you Beauty & Lace and Allen and Unwin for letting me review this book.

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