Some things in life are hard to stomach: disease, death, grief (as well as the many ways it’s dealt with), heinous crimes that strip people of their innocence, etc. To combine all of these into one book makes for a weighty narrative. However, THE DAY BEFORE TOMORROW does just that—looking unflinchingly at the many directions in which grief can send a family spiraling. The novel (the first by author Monique Britten) begins with a disconnected preface: a woman crashing funerals for reasons that will later become evident. The bulk of the story takes place in the late 1970s and early 1980s, starting with Juliette and George Morgan and their growing family. The happy couple is beginning a new life in the county of Rickshaw, where everyone knows everyone and George will be taking over as the local school’s principal. However, things come crashing down quickly. Juliette is diagnosed with bone cancer and has only months to live. George discovers that there is a sexual predator on his teaching staff, and must wait to catch said predator in the act. The two situations reach critical mass around the same time, and this is where the true fallout begins. The second and third acts of the book trace the lingering effects of these, zeroing in on the Morgans’ eldest daughter, Kate. Slowly coming undone at a formative time in her life, it seems there’s nowhere she can turn. And before long, this situation too will overflow.
THE DAY BEFORE TOMORROW is an intense book, and not for the faint of heart. Predatory behavior, chronic illness, and several types of depressive breakdowns are all laid out in full. It’s a keen examination, and one that thankfully does not blame the victims. The story at large is strong, well laid out, and includes a variety of multifaceted characters. Linda is more than the put-upon wife of the predatory Ron, for example: she’s a bastion of hope for other characters, even as her own life is falling apart. Books, originally depicted as George’s primary rival for the position of principal, becomes one of his most ardent supporters. And the central figures, the Morgans, are a multitude of contradictions: equal parts loving and troubled, helpful and self-destructive. They are perfectly imperfect, and that realism carries the story along.
In its final chapters, THE DAY BEFORE TOMORROW brings its true message to bear: the nature of mortality, the meaning of life, and the interconnectedness of experiences. As beautiful as this message is, though, the reader’s mileage may vary with regards to the book’s actual conclusion. Given everything that has come before, it feels like an unpleasant rug-pull couched as a bittersweet moral. Despite its divisive ending, though, THE DAY BEFORE TOMORROW is by and large a beautiful piece of fiction. It demands a great deal from its readers, but gives back in thoughtful storytelling.
A challenging and emotional read in terms of subject matter, Monique Britten’s THE DAY BEFORE TOMORROW is not for the faint of heart—a beautiful narrative that addresses real-world hopes and fears unflinchingly, albeit with a potentially divisive ending.
~Kara Dennison for IndieReader