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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Before I Go

ISBN: 9781496736390

Publisher: Kensington

A John Scognamiglio Book

Publication Date: 09/27/2022

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

For fans of Nicholas Sparks, Mitch Albom, Charles Martin, and Richard Paul Evans, Before I Go is at once a tender love story with a twist, a profound portrait of life after loss, and an uplifting exploration of the numinous connections that give our lives meaning. The Notebook meets The Shack in this poignant tale about how the people we love stay with us forever…in sometimes surprising ways.

A year after her husband’s plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, Abby Gamble knows she needs to start moving beyond her grief. She and Ben shared a deep love, made even stronger by the heartache they went through together. But Ben would want her to keep living. So Abby throws herself once more into her cosmetics company—only to find herself at a crossroads when she meets Joel, a physician whose past is as scarred as hers.

Joel has never forgiven himself for a fateful childhood decision. That guilt has spurred him on to save other lives. When he meets Abby he begins to see a way forward, though Abby is holding back, struggling with the idea of finally leaving Ben behind.

Yet Ben isn’t gone. Ever since his plane went down, he’s been trying to make his way back to Abby. That journey begins on an island thousands of miles away, as Ben discovers his journal among the wreckage debris that has washed up on shore—a series of letters that recounts Abby and Ben’s love story. Rereading his letters about the life they planned, and the joy and misfortune they encountered along the way, Ben knows what he must do. Somehow, he must set out to see Abby again—even if he doesn’t know what will be waiting for him in the extraordinary event that he makes it home . . .

My Review

An unforgettable holiday romance novel about how our lives and losses intersect.

Brian Charles' debut BEFORE I GO is a light-hearted holiday romance for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Mitch Albom, Charles Martin, Richard Paul Evans, Rochelle Weinstein, and Katherine Center.

The story centers around Abby in Chicago, who lost her son Jacob when just a baby due to leukemia, and then her husband, Ben, after the plane he was on crashed into the Pacific Ocean on an island.

Abby is a successful businesswoman with a cosmetics company and has numerous stores. A year later, after her husband's death, after urging from her sister, she meets a nice surgeon at the gym, Joel. Is she ready to start over, and is this what Ben would want?

She takes it slow and is not sure she is ready for a relationship. Even though Joel is patient and is willing to take things slow. They do fun holiday things, and she meets his nephew Brian.

She keeps her past a secret from Joel.

Joel has his secrets, too. He also has some things he is dealing with about regrets and traumas from his childhood past, involving his brother, which he could not save from drowning when just a boy, which he does not discuss.

Ben is trying to make his way back to Abby since appears he is on the island with someone. He also finds his journal of all the letters he wrote to his son about his love story with Abby.

How do all these lives intersect? Abby, Ben, Joel, and Christian, the real estate developer. Abby and Joel both suffer from survivor's guilt. There is also a mysterious woman with a son and a letter from Ben, and she is planning on sharing it with Abby.

BEFORE I GO is part love story, part holiday, and part magical mystery.

Even though I would not describe the novel as similar to The Notebook or The Shack, I would categorize it more as a Richard Paul Evans story. While reading, you may be thinking, what is going on? Until all comes together in the end and wraps up nicely.

My only con (which is a pet peeve of any book that does this) — just my opinion. There is no reference at the beginning of each chapter regarding who is speaking or changing the POV. It is ok to name the chapter as was done here, but in addition, I prefer the person's name at the top of each chapter when changing POV, like:





The same goes for audiobooks. Otherwise, you must read a page or two into the chapter to figure out who is speaking, which is very distracting.

If you have read Charlie' Donlea's suspense thrillers (I have read them all)— you know he is a super storyteller, and his latest romance (under the pseudonym Brian Charles) is a thought-provoking, nice simple and short holiday read with a deeper meaning.

Give it a whirl even if you do not care for romance (like myself); however, I always read my annual Richard Paul Evans holiday book and am a fan of all the authors I mentioned above.

I also enjoyed Maggie, the sister, and the author's note and inspiration behind the book. A very uplifting read and a compelling debut in this genre. Hopefully, we will see more to come.

Thank you to #KensingonBooks and #NetGalley for a gifted e-ARC.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: Sept 27, 2022

About the Author

Brian Charles was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in the suburbs with his wife and children. Before I Go is his debut novel. Readers can find him at

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