A group of lifetime friends gather together to confront life, love, and now mortality
“Everything you want a novel about life, death, and friendship to be—smart, moving, sweeping, poetic, stinging, just beautiful. I loved these women (and their men) and this elegy to their long-reaching bonds.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage
Before Everything is a celebration of friendship and love between a group of women who have known each another since they were girls. They’ve faced everything together, from youthful sprees and scrapes to mid-life turning points. Now, as Anna, the group’s trailblazer and brightest spark, enters hospice, they gather to do what they’ve always done—talk and laugh and help each other make choices and plans, this time in Anna’s rural Massachusetts home. Helen, Anna’s best friend and a celebrated painter, is about to remarry. The others face their own challenges—Caroline with her sister’s mental health crisis; Molly with a teenage daughter’s rebellion; Ming with her law practice—dilemmas with kids and work and love.
Before Everything is as funny as it is bittersweet, as the friends revel in the hilarious mistakes they’ve seen one another through, the secrets kept, and adventures shared. But now all sense of time has shifted, and the pattern of their lives together takes on new meaning. The novel offers a brilliant, emotionally charged portrait, deftly conveying the sweep of time over everyday lives, and showing how even in difficult endings, gifts can unfold. Above all it is an ode to friendship, and to how one person shapes the journeys of those around her.
About the Author
Victoria Redel is the critically acclaimed author of four previous works of fiction and three collections of poetry. Her debut novel, Loverboy, was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times and won the Sister Mariella Gable Prize from Graywolf Press and the Forward Silver Literary Fiction Prize. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and has contributed to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Elle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Granta, One Story, and the Harvard Review. She received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.
“A gentle, rich tale of friendship and loss . . . Before Everything creates a tight, vivid world.” —The Seattle Times
“One of the most powerful tales of complex ever-evolving female friendship there is. . . . Everything Redel writes is brilliant but this is my favorite work by her.” —Porochista Khakpour, LitHub
“Redel’s novel about longtime friends who come together to care for one of their own—and relive a lifetime of memories—proves why ‘before everything’ is where we ought to place friendship on the roster of the most soul-satisfying things.” —Redbook
“Redel has always been a fantastic prose writer, someone whose books I go to as much for the sentences as for her excellent stories. Before Everything is not just beautifully written but also intensely moving.” —Matt Bell, Vulture
“The architecture of Redel’s often lyrical prose soars beyond ambition and signals the arrival of a true master. . . . A quiet yet revolutionary statement is at work in the warmth and depth of Redel’s pages about the not-so-subtle strength demanded of womanhood. The book lifts the veil on the power dynamics of female relationships—investigating the lasting power of allegiances of the heart. . . . We don’t simply look to fiction as a place to escape, but a place to admire, to learn. Here, we are afforded the pleasure of all three.” —Annie DeWitt, Guernica
“Brilliant, multilayered . . . Redel does character so convincingly, with so much joy, you can’t help but be reminded: ah, so this is why we read and write novels!” —Provincetown Arts
“Brings to mind Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, with its chorus of distinctive voices sharing private perceptions along with their sustained collective experience. . . . In lyrical prose, Redel interweaves Anna’s final days with echoes of the past.” —Jane Ciabattari, BBC
“Redel has crafted a lyrical ode to female friendship, proving that bonds can somehow be made of iron and elastic, sometimes strong and sometimes frail. She fleshes out the five main characters admirably for such a short book, linking each of their most vulnerable memories to their shared crisis. Fans of Anne Tyler and Jennifer Close will adore this warmhearted and clear-eyed novel.” —Booklist (starred review)
“A touching story of friendship and loss . . . richly realized. The result is an unflinching and affecting look at how one woman’s final days change the lives of those around her.” —Publishers Weekly
“Gorgeous, a heartbreaker, a non-stop dazzler, a major achievement. Thank you, Victoria Redel.” —Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Hours
“Victoria Redel bears witness to a remarkable group of women, effortlessly weaving back and forth through time, each thread revealing the cracks and secrets of their complex lives, while also drawing them closer. . . . Redel proves that female friendship is the quiet, steady engine that truly runs the world.” —Hannah Tinti, author of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
“Before Everything is a riveting, timely story that explores the unsettlingly beautiful, emotionally charged landscape that is revealed when old friends embrace what they have never before admitted: the limits of mortality and the boundlessness of friendship.” —Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“Before Everything turns on the grand themes, love and death. Redel’s elegant narration unfolds not in linear time but in the time of memory, moving among the friends to reveal their shifting connections, needs, and circumstances. At once tough and tender, funny and sad, this beautifully written novel articulates the dynamic realities of those wondrous friendships that last a lifetime.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World
“I admire Victoria Redel’s work for so many reasons—for its fearlessness, its complexity, its beauty—and Before Everything is one of the most brilliant, radiant, and heartbreaking books I’ve read in years. Redel’s characters—fierce and funny, loyal and compassionate—feel as real and beloved as the people we hold dearest in our own lives. An extraordinary novel by one of the best writers we have.” —Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans