The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan


Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Colour of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.


Genre: Fiction – Magical Realism

Page count: 480

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (because I don’t have more)

Wait, did you hear that?

Oh, yeah, that is me crying. Because of this bloody book. Because it’s so bright it got into my eye and blinded me to tears.


“Believing is a type of magic. It can make something true.”

I don’t know what exact words to use in order to describe The Astonishing Colour of After. I work feeling to feeling with my books and this one was like a tropical rain of feelings washing over me. What exactly are words compared to feelings?

Though, I’ll try.            

I wasn’t exactly sure what the plot would be like after I’ve read the synopsis and, honestly, I thought it’s not going to be my type of book. I started reading it only because my brother picked it for me and he’d been upset that I haven’t read it as soon as he picked it. So I gave it a shot. Jesus, that was one of the best shots of my life, vodka is nothing compared to this.


I was only a couple of pages through it when I realised that I am going to love this book with my whole fibre and I was completely right. I don’t know how to explain the effect this book had on me.

I think the best way to describe everything happening throughout it is through the magical power of colours, one system used very well as a concept here. So I’ll try my best to break the storm of unexplainable emotions with a rainbow of explanation, but I am no artist (or at least decent with colours). I am just curious – does this book have the whole rainbow of feelings? Let’s see.

Was it RED? – Yes, because it is a powerful colour, associated with love and war. About war, I cannot tell you much, but it made me feel a pale red of love because the plot itself is built on love. And yes, I loved this book. So red, *checked*.

ORANGE? – The book gave me a refreshing dash of playfulness, youthfulness and energy that I absolutely couldn’t help but admire. *checked*.

YELLOW? –It was a bright shade of warning yellow. A colour that made me feel warned about something other than my own world and also made me feel that shade of happy yellow because of reading it. *checked*.

GREEN? – Jesus, yes. This book was a whole universe of shades of green. The setting of it is just so green you can’t ignore it. Everything comes so naturally, stable and undying, it’s hard not to feel it. So, *checked*.

BLUE? – As a matter of fact, this book made me feel blue, blue like the colour of my tears that were crowding into my eyes. It made me feel sad, but it also made me feel safe. It felt even serene at some point. *checked*.

PURPLE? – Oh yes, absolutely. The whole story was luxurious, but in a simple way, romantic, but in a platonic way, mysterious, but in an obvious way. Full of contrast, but full of meaning. Imperial, but humble. So purple also *checked*.

PINK? – This book screams pink. Intense pink of deep feelings but also some blushy pink cheeks once in a while. So lovely, *checked*.

BROWN? –It was the brown of the earth. The brown that keeps the roots anchored. The brown of connection. *checked*.

(I don’t know colours so I’ll stop here and yeah, I know those are not exactly rainbow but still)           

Conclusion: Apparently, the book is able to have more colours than I personally know to name, so this calls for an expert experter than me, ’cuz I’m rubbish at this point.

I felt a feeling of unity while reading the book. It had an atmosphere of its own. I felt like I was transported onto a comfy armchair under a fluffy blanket, with a good steamy cup of oolong tea in my hand and surrounded by green plants, chill jazz playing on the background while outside it was the middle of a summer storm.

“We’re not lost. We’re just headed somewhere different.”

I have no proper words in English to describe the effect the whole story had on me, but I can describe it better in Romanian in a way you could have a palpable image of what I felt. This book „m-a uns pe suflet”, basically it just „greased my soul” if that makes any sense to you in English. It was like my soul was this old, creaky, unsufferable noisy door and this book was the oil that got rid of the creakiness. Puff! Mental health immediately restored. Yes, this is exactly how I felt.            

Soothing. And recommendable.

“She was the colour of home.”

5 thoughts on “The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

  1. What a stunning review. I loved that you incorporated the colors too and ahh, I love that this book had such an impact on you, too. I had a hard time writing my review after reading this book, too, because it was somehow so beautifully written and powerful and made me want to sob by the end of it all, too. It’s a stunning debut and I can’t wait to read more from the author 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It really is the best feeling, when we… well, when we can’t even describe how we feel about a book because it’s just that strong. I love it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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