by She Treads Softly: After Annie by Anna Quindlen is an outstanding breathtaking and heartbreaking depiction of a family dealing with the untimely death of a wife and mother over the span of a year. It is a very highly recommended, exceptional literary family drama and not to be missed. One of the best. I loved this book.

When Annie Brown, 37, dies suddenly, she leaves behind her husband Bill, who is a plumber, and four children Ali (Alexandra)13, Ant (Anthony) 11, Benjy (Benjamin) 8, and James 6. She also leaves behind her best friend since childhood, Annemarie. No one knows how they can move forward without Annie. Bill is overwhelmed and forfeits much of his parental responsibility to Ali, who tries to step up and care for everyone as best she can. Ali carries the weight and tries to keep her family going. Ant is angry and acting out, Benjy begins wetting the bed, and James thinks his mom will still be coming home. Annemarie, a recovering addict due to Annie’s help, is struggling with staying clean and sober.

Quindlen is an extraordinary writer who can deftly handle the subject matter accurately and with compassion. Anyone who has had an untimely death in their family will understand the emotional struggles this family is going through while trying to keep living their day to day lives. It is a deeply moving, emotionally charged story. Even when it seems not a lot of action is going on in the plot, those who have experienced this will know moving on after a death is like climbing a mountain every day. It is exhausting and overwhelming.

The narrative is broken up into seasons, winter, spring, summer, and autumn, and explores the inner life and practicalities of how each character is handling the loss of a person who held them all together. The characters are portrayed as fully-realized, complex, and realistic individuals who are trying to continue living. Annie is present in their thoughts and her backstory is told through them. The story is primarily told through Bill, Annmarie, and Ali. They are all faced with imagining life without Annie when she was a central part of their lives.

Be prepared to cry as the characters learn to live life without someone they loved. Yes, it is very sad, but there is hope in their memories as well as their struggles. This is a very emotionally satisfying story. It is okay and good to grieve those you love. Thanks to Random House for providing me with an advance reader’s copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.