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Before You Go

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In this “dazzling debut” (Publishers Weekly), the moving story of one man’s quest for happiness is interwoven with speculative tales of the Before and After, resulting in a profound yet playful literary journey into the ache and wonder of being human. In the Before, humankind is created with a hole in its heart, the designers not realizing their mistake—if it was a mistake— In this “dazzling debut” (Publishers Weekly), the moving story of one man’s quest for happiness is interwoven with speculative tales of the Before and After, resulting in a profound yet playful literary journey into the ache and wonder of being human. In the Before, humankind is created with a hole in its heart, the designers not realizing their mistake—if it was a mistake—until too late. Elliot Chance is just a boy, and knows nothing of this. All he knows is that he doesn’t feel at home in this world, and his desire for escape becomes more urgent as he grows into adulthood, where the turbulence of life seems to offer no cure for the emptiness. Desperate and lost, he stumbles upon a support group on the edge of Manhattan. There he meets two other drifting souls—Sasha, a young woman who leaves coded messages in the copy she writes for advertising campaigns, and Bannor, whose detailed depictions of the future make Elliot think he may have actually been there. With these two unlikely allies, Elliot launches into the business of life, determined to be happy in spite of himself. Yet the hole in the heart is not so easily filled.


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In this “dazzling debut” (Publishers Weekly), the moving story of one man’s quest for happiness is interwoven with speculative tales of the Before and After, resulting in a profound yet playful literary journey into the ache and wonder of being human. In the Before, humankind is created with a hole in its heart, the designers not realizing their mistake—if it was a mistake— In this “dazzling debut” (Publishers Weekly), the moving story of one man’s quest for happiness is interwoven with speculative tales of the Before and After, resulting in a profound yet playful literary journey into the ache and wonder of being human. In the Before, humankind is created with a hole in its heart, the designers not realizing their mistake—if it was a mistake—until too late. Elliot Chance is just a boy, and knows nothing of this. All he knows is that he doesn’t feel at home in this world, and his desire for escape becomes more urgent as he grows into adulthood, where the turbulence of life seems to offer no cure for the emptiness. Desperate and lost, he stumbles upon a support group on the edge of Manhattan. There he meets two other drifting souls—Sasha, a young woman who leaves coded messages in the copy she writes for advertising campaigns, and Bannor, whose detailed depictions of the future make Elliot think he may have actually been there. With these two unlikely allies, Elliot launches into the business of life, determined to be happy in spite of himself. Yet the hole in the heart is not so easily filled.

30 review for Before You Go

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Loved it! Elliot was such a great character and I was completely drawn into his world - his loneliness, his struggles, his imagination. The moments of “before” and “after” perfectly complimented the storyline. I was a bit wary of the description that said “sci-fi”, but it was not what I expected. Be forewarned that the book deals with suicide. The author, though, has such a beautiful, lyrical prose that I found myself highlighting many passages. From the simple: “My heart cares about your heart. Loved it! Elliot was such a great character and I was completely drawn into his world - his loneliness, his struggles, his imagination. The moments of “before” and “after” perfectly complimented the storyline. I was a bit wary of the description that said “sci-fi”, but it was not what I expected. Be forewarned that the book deals with suicide. The author, though, has such a beautiful, lyrical prose that I found myself highlighting many passages. From the simple: “My heart cares about your heart.” To the simply haunting: “There’s a particular ache that results when a person is right there next to you but feels a universe away — a loneliness that is somehow unbecoming, given that you’re not alone.” And the simply wishful: “If you’re lucky, people will love you in the way they know how. And if you’re really lucky, the love they can give will be the love you need.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    Oh my God. This was absolutely marvellous. I adored adored, adore that novel.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This book was a lot stranger than I thought it was going to be. Some people will find it too strange to read and I thought of putting it down at moments but I felt compelled to finish. the themes explored and the idea of this book was wonderful. the writing was fun, poignant and lyrical. The execution of the plot and characters, though, I think could have been better.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Ilievskie

    2.5 The writing style is gorgeous and I enjoyed the myriad of themes the author explored in the book, but the plot itself felt too insubstantial and hollow for my liking. In the frame story, things would just...happen for no discernible reason. Also, I wasn’t in love with any of the characters – the narrator and supporting cast have the collective personality of wallpaper paste, to be perfectly honest. I also felt like this book was trying to juggle too many things, and wished the author stuck wit 2.5 The writing style is gorgeous and I enjoyed the myriad of themes the author explored in the book, but the plot itself felt too insubstantial and hollow for my liking. In the frame story, things would just...happen for no discernible reason. Also, I wasn’t in love with any of the characters – the narrator and supporting cast have the collective personality of wallpaper paste, to be perfectly honest. I also felt like this book was trying to juggle too many things, and wished the author stuck with a central idea and explored it in-depth rather than attempting to be profound in all manner of topics. Tonally, the book also felt off – the beginning reads like a classic hero-falls-down-the-rabbit-hole fairytale, the middle a gritty New York period piece following a disillusioned Everyman stuck in a dead-end corporate job, and the ending a philosophical literary drama about life. The chapters were also interspersed with...sci-fi snippets? Told through a side character we barely know of/care about? What? However, I will say, for a debut, it’s a passable story. A little more organization and coherence in the plot would go a long way. I’d pick up another book by the author for the writing style alone – it’s one of the book’s few saving graces.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Colotta

    My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A candid look at life and death mixed with a unique view on what came before we are who we are. What do you say about a book like BEFORE YOU GO? It is one of those rare novels that push the boundaries of how you perceive our existence. It explores so many facets of human emotions while looking at the choices we make. What I found most compelling about this story is the realness and the grit within the prose. Elliot’s life and his view on it were never once sugar-coat My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A candid look at life and death mixed with a unique view on what came before we are who we are. What do you say about a book like BEFORE YOU GO? It is one of those rare novels that push the boundaries of how you perceive our existence. It explores so many facets of human emotions while looking at the choices we make. What I found most compelling about this story is the realness and the grit within the prose. Elliot’s life and his view on it were never once sugar-coated. The way he lived within the book felt authentic to what we all experience on some level. Then you add into the narrative a hint of the great beyond with the designers and how they created us all with a hole near our hearts so that we would want to leave earth when it was our time. Somehow, it all works well. Through eloquent writing, a bit of imagination, and a true grounding in the real world, BEFORE YOU GO will make your heartbreak while at the same time offer hope. It truly celebrates all the aspects of what being human means. Reviewer Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Highly Caffeinated Rating of… ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ Follow the Highly Caffeinated Victoria Colotta: Website | Facebook | Twitter @vcolotta | Instagram | Goodreads ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

  6. 4 out of 5

    Madhuri Palaji

    Before You Go is a coming of age fiction by Tommy Butler. It has a very unique set up. The book discusses life, finding its purpose, death, dealing with pain and a lot more issues of the entire existence of human beings.  We've been lately hearing a lot about the increased feeling of loneliness among people, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicides. This wonderful book is an answer to many questions. The author has an amazing philosophy which he describes through the story of Elliot Chance.  The Before You Go is a coming of age fiction by Tommy Butler. It has a very unique set up. The book discusses life, finding its purpose, death, dealing with pain and a lot more issues of the entire existence of human beings.  We've been lately hearing a lot about the increased feeling of loneliness among people, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicides. This wonderful book is an answer to many questions. The author has an amazing philosophy which he describes through the story of Elliot Chance.  The story starts from the making of mankind where the manufacturers leave a void in the hearts of humans by mistake. It is that emptiness that makes them feel incomplete, lost and miserable. Elliot is a young boy, who feels lost in this world. He thinks that he doesn't belong here and attempts to leave the world in many ways. He wants to believe in magic and an entirely different magical world but people around him shove the hard truth into his face. The more he grows into adulthood, the more he wants to end his life.  To escape from the pain he is going through, he joins a support group where he meets Sasha and Bannor. They have their own story to tell. Elliot, Sasha and Bannor become good friends and try to sail through life with each other's support. In spite of a job, girl friend and good life, Elliot keeps at his attempts to end his life. The story is about how he finds happiness in his life, eventually and lives a full life.  Kudos to the author for writing such a wonderful and speculative fiction. I can't believe that this is Tommy Butler's debut. He has a deeper sense of understanding about a lot of unanswered questions about the day to day pain we experience in the voids of our hearts.  This book is much needed in today's world, a book that talks above and beyond life, death and everything in between. The book is releasing on August 11th, 2020. 

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Finished this book a few weeks ago and plan to read it again. Thoughtful and introspective, it is written in a light manner and as a result I found it a fairly quick read. There were moments where I literally laughed out loud. Despite the playfulness, the writing style is extremely beautiful and even poetic at times. I was kept guessing how it would all come together in the end. This book will stay with me for a long time. Great debut, Tommy!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Narendra Rocherolle

    Thank you. That was intense and beautiful.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Ruppert

    Beautifully written. The story and the way it's articulated is so poetic. There is both beauty and sadness in every line. As someone who loves philosophy this book really was of great interest to me. The view of life and how it should be lived expands across many points of view and opened doors to different perspectives for me. The story itself was also so real and so raw, a life of tragedy within beauty and fulfillment. Loved it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Spent 45 minutes writing a beautiful review of this incredible book and Goodreads went down before it posted. Don’t have the heart to redo it right now. But this is beautifully written.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leeah

    Wow. The most beautiful book about life and death and suicide that I never knew I needed. Do yourself a favor and read this 🙌🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Another great debut for 2020 (As crazy as this year has been). Fair warning, this book hits all the emotions... at least in my opinion. But why this book needs to be read: the important lessons and eye-opening moments it brings to the reader's attention. When you go through the many stages of Elliot's life, you totally empathize with this protagonist. Being a child, full of wonder and awe to only have it ripped away by adult figures. In young adolescence, fumbling your way through life and seeing Another great debut for 2020 (As crazy as this year has been). Fair warning, this book hits all the emotions... at least in my opinion. But why this book needs to be read: the important lessons and eye-opening moments it brings to the reader's attention. When you go through the many stages of Elliot's life, you totally empathize with this protagonist. Being a child, full of wonder and awe to only have it ripped away by adult figures. In young adolescence, fumbling your way through life and seeing what sticks and stays. And during those times, meeting and being with some of the most crucial people to the rest of your life. This is the part of the story (his early twenties to late twenties) that the bulk of the story focuses on, which I think was great. It was important to see his youth to understand him. But choosing this period of time for a character was really impactful. His demons had not really resurfaced, but truly had never gone away. He had been dealing with things a lot longer than one would expect. And that is okay, you can't just "cure" someone. That it is alright to not fight or to fight the feelings you have underlying. I think that is one of the lessons you learn in this story. That everything, in its own time, is simply just a moment, and then another, and again another... Tommy Butler has not only written a story of morale, but a story of prose. To call this poetic is not enough. To call it lyrical is still just scraping the surface. His use of the English language to describe and emphasize emotions, beings, and places is without a doubt articulated through the creative-thought process. It makes the story engaging in a way we do not normally see these days in books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cait

    This is a really beautiful book that explores the human condition and human nature in its many forms. It explores themes of loneliness, yearning to connect, the cost of happiness. The story is very imaginative and moving but not cheesy. I read one review that called it profound and yet playful and those two words, I found, are quite accurate descriptions. Excited to see more from this author. Thanks to Netgalley for my ARC.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Before You Go was an extraordinary story, but unfortunately it's not one whose details are sticking with me very well... When I pick it up and skim through a few pages, some of it comes back to me, but even without doing that, I know it was a really great story and absolutely worth reading. It's really rare for me to say this, but I think it would even be worth reading more than once. Every time I look at it and struggle to remember exactly what happened, but do remember that I loved it while I Before You Go was an extraordinary story, but unfortunately it's not one whose details are sticking with me very well... When I pick it up and skim through a few pages, some of it comes back to me, but even without doing that, I know it was a really great story and absolutely worth reading. It's really rare for me to say this, but I think it would even be worth reading more than once. Every time I look at it and struggle to remember exactly what happened, but do remember that I loved it while I was reading it, I want to read it again. The book is definitely a keeper, and made me feel a little better about my uncertainties in life while I was reading it. Note: I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara Alcorn-Luparello

    I think the overarching idea of this book is a phenomenal one, but overall, I found this story hard to follow. This book started off pretty slow and I thought the main character was hard to connect with. The writing was great, and I would love to see this author put out more books. Thanks so much to Netgalley and Harper Collins for this Advanced Reader's Copy!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adefala Teniola

    The book has made me do a lot of things I will be glad if the author message me

  17. 4 out of 5

    Manda

    Holy shit.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Toad

    A beautiful book which deals with very depressing issues of suicide and love. I never enjoy when they glorrify this horrific condition or event but the author, Tommy Butler does a great job. Would recommend

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maryangela B.

    poignant and well written

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kandice Hogan

    Very unusual, but I loved this book. Really makes you think about suicide, dying, the options, advantages and disadvantages. Starts slow, but becomes more interesting and thought provoking.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nayeli

    Lovely. Simple, yet original and profound. One of the best novels I’ve read recently.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alanna

    What an absolutely beautiful debut! Filled with heartache and searing truths, Butler takes us on a journey that fans of The Giver and The Alchemist will enjoy, with philosophical questioning and nuggets of of what life is really all about sprinkled within. Elliot Chance is a character who will wind his way into your heart as he ponders his existence to patch what’s missing in his. While navigating serious mental health issues like suicide and raw emotions of pain and loneliness, it’s ultimately What an absolutely beautiful debut! Filled with heartache and searing truths, Butler takes us on a journey that fans of The Giver and The Alchemist will enjoy, with philosophical questioning and nuggets of of what life is really all about sprinkled within. Elliot Chance is a character who will wind his way into your heart as he ponders his existence to patch what’s missing in his. While navigating serious mental health issues like suicide and raw emotions of pain and loneliness, it’s ultimately an incredible story of all the beauty and imperfections that make life worth living and what it means to be human.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Berry

    Wow! This was really a good debut! I will say that for the first few chapters, I was not feeling it. But, this novel soon pulled me in and would not let me go! Really enjoyed the structure, the lyrical prose! So good!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bernadette

    BEFORE YOU GO takes you on Elliot's journey through life while experiencing emotions of fear, loneliness, compassion, sadness, love. It is extremely well written luring you from the start and holding you captive. In the end, you will find yourself re-examining your own thoughts and appreciating what has been handed to you. THIS IS A MUST READ!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Jonson

    Wow! Makes you think. What is the meaning of life?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    Amazing. Take a deep, dark subject like the struggle for meaning and suicide, shine the light of compassion, love and gratitude on it with literary grace and humor. Who does that? Apparently this author does that. Listened to the Audio book AND read the hardcopy (needed to go back and absorb in a way audio doesn't do for me) - both are excellent.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Webb

    Read it. I'll write a fuller review once I stop crying.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mena

    While there were things that bumped me while I was in the early pages, this story is all is worth it and so genuinely sweet & earnest that I want to hold it tight and kiss it softly and bake it cookies. While there were things that bumped me while I was in the early pages, this story is all is worth it and so genuinely sweet & earnest that I want to hold it tight and kiss it softly and bake it cookies.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carol Richey

    This book is wonderful, and reminds me so much of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief: 1) It is hauntingly beautiful; and 2) I wish I had written it. My only disappointment is that this is Butler’s debut novel, so I have to wait for him to publish another one. I originally borrowed it from the library, but I ordered it today because I want my own copy on hand—I expect this is one I’ll add to the handful of books I reread every year or two.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    I haven’t read a book like Before You Go by Tommy Butler in a long time (or maybe ever!). It’s a unique speculative fiction novel that deftly explores the meaning of life. The protagonist, Elliot Chance, starts out as a young boy. He spends his time catching leaves with his brother and playing baseball. But soon, his childhood experiences become less ordinary. He starts seeing what he believes are benevolent monsters, and the way he feels about the world begins to shift. We follow him from boyhoo I haven’t read a book like Before You Go by Tommy Butler in a long time (or maybe ever!). It’s a unique speculative fiction novel that deftly explores the meaning of life. The protagonist, Elliot Chance, starts out as a young boy. He spends his time catching leaves with his brother and playing baseball. But soon, his childhood experiences become less ordinary. He starts seeing what he believes are benevolent monsters, and the way he feels about the world begins to shift. We follow him from boyhood until his death. In between, we get glimpses into what seems to be a collection of the beings who created humankind. Somehow, by accident, they made a mistake (or is it?) by leaving a whole in the human heart that’s difficult to fill. This book blew me away. It’s a powerful novel, especially for those of us who have ever felt adrift or unsure about our purpose in this world. I love how Butler was able to drill down to the particulars of one man’s story, while also successfully covering such a sweeping, over-arching theme: what it is to be human. It is literary fiction, so don’t go into this expecting a high-octane, heavily plot-driven story. But please don’t take that to mean it’s boring – not in the least. I enjoyed every moment; even those that were bittersweet. And despite the more serious subject matter, there were many moments that were playful and humorous. While I (fortunately) don’t relate to everything the main character felt or experienced, many parts of the story made me feel seen. Butler has this incredible way of writing that pulls you in to even the most mundane-seeming experience, and makes you realize it’s actually quite profound (and SO relatable). Before You Go was an emotional and fascinating speculation on the human experience. This story will stick with me for a long time, and I’m incredibly grateful to have read it. Highly recommended! (Especially recommended for fans of David Mitchell, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Emily St. John Mandel.) **Thank you to Harper Books for the review copy!

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