The Astonishing Colour of After is the début novel by American author, Emily X.R. Pan. This brave novel tells the story of American-Chinese Leigh, a teenaged girl who has just lost her mother to suicide. The reader travels with Leigh on her journey to Taiwan, where she meets her mother’s estranged parents for the first time. As Leigh explores her mother’s world in Taiwan, she faces ghosts of the past and present, and unearths family secrets that were never meant to be discovered – by her.
Leigh’s passion for art literally colours her personal narration throughout, as each emotion, expression, even sound create a palette of hues. As she works through her grief, trying to fill that ‘mother-shaped hole’ inside her, she slips between memories, flashbacks, what-if moments. This clever narrative covers more than three storylines that intertwine and tie up seamlessly by the end.
Throughout Leigh’s honest narrative, the book becomes a mix of magic realism and, in a way, a modern-day ghost story. The novel explores identity, love, life and the afterlife, all the while sensitively dealing with mental health issues. It is a compelling, beautiful read from start to finish.