Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan tells the story of Yasmen and Josiah Wade, a formerly married couple with two children, who are essentially trying to move forward in their lives after a series of tragic events. When grief and loss looms over their family, Yasmen and Josiah both coped in such different ways, that ultimately led to the demise of their marriage. Despite that dissolution, they are still tethered to each other by their kids, their restaurant, and their love for each other. Throughout the story, in both of their POVs, there are glimpses to the past that inform what happened to them and their marriage but also how they’ve managed to deal then and now. With such delicate themes like grief and loss, we get to see Yasmen and Josiah come full circle in how they cope and accept the past – and come back to each other.
As mentioned, Yasmen and Josiah are tied to each other, despite their divorce through their kids and their business. They own the restaurant Grits in the Skyland neighborhood of Atlanta. The restaurant, upscale soul food, is based off of Josiah’s aunt Byrd’s family recipes. Byrd, Josiah’s aunt and parental figure, was the glue that helped put Yasmen and Josiah’s restaurant together. Unfortunately, Byrd dies of a heart attack, bringing grief to the Wade family. To add onto that, Yasmen ends up losing her third pregnancy, which sends Yasmen deep into the depths of depression. With these two events happening close together, Yasmen and Josiah begin to unravel in ways that they couldn’t catch each other, leading to the end of their marriage.
Throughout the story, it’s clear that Yasmen and Josiah’s love for each other never faded. Classified as a slow burn, you’ll have to be patient to get to the “good” parts, but even the yearning and the pining they both do for each other – sometimes not so covertly – leaves you wanting to wait til it does get good.
Common Themes + Opinions:
The overarching theme in Before I Let Go, aside from their undying love for each other, is grief and loss. Yasmen and Josiah had to deal with the loss of two family members almost back to back, and they both coped so differently. Yasmen fell deep into a depression, one that she wasn’t even sure she’d see the way out of. In the book, she mentions that the only thing that would get her out of bed in the morning was her kids, which helped her push through and seek help. On the other hand, Josiah resembled the Energizer bunny as he just kept going and going, not seemingly dealing with his grief. It became clear to Yasmen that their incompatibility in coping with their grief was a pain point, which made her drown in her own sadness even more and sparked some resentment towards Josiah.
With this, the second overarching theme in the story was therapy. Yasmen managed to overcome her deep depressive episode by seeking help. After finding the right therapist and the right antidepressants, she slowly came back to herself – though a different version of herself. She found the tools to help her cope and do the work to keep herself balanced. Josiah, however, adamantly against therapy, ended up with a therapist of his own. It was beautiful to see Josiah’s progression from being anti-therapy to actively seeking it out and using the tools his therapist equipped him with to help him go through life. Josiah found a way to heal too, which ultimately helped bring him and Yasmen back together.
Final Thoughts + Ratings:
Overall, Before I Let Go is probably one of the most grown books I’ve read thus far. Divorce, grief and loss are not easy themes to grapple with but Kennedy does an amazing job in treating these themes with care and illustrate them in a way that’s easy to understand and empathize with Yasmen and Josiah. I’ll admit, some of this was hard to read given the heavy themes, but I really enjoyed reading Yasmen and Josiah’s journeys. As a champion for therapy, I loved seeing how it helped them both, especially resistant Josiah, figure out how to heal and how to grow from their past. This was my first Kennedy Ryan book, and I’m certain it will not be my last! As for the spice, you will have to wait but I’d say it’s worth it 🥵 All in all, I give Before I Let Go 4.5 stars.
Have you read Before I Let Go? Let me know what you think in the comments!