Book Review: All the Ever Afters

All the Ever Afters:
The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother
By: Danielle Teller
Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date:  May 22, 2018
Page Count: 384
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: eARC kindly provided by publisher
Fairy Tale - Folklore

Agnes's survival of horrible childhood and young adult experiences shaped her into the strong woman she is today.  Despite her strength, however, she lives in the palace amidst a swirl of court gossip and at the sufferance of her stepdaughter, Cinderella.  As the rumors circulate, Agnes records her own life story to refute the tales that people tell about her.

They say the winners are the ones who get to write the history.  That has been true of Cinderella, at least until now.  With All the Ever Afters, we finally get to hear the "evil" stepmother's side of the story, and learn that Cinderella isn't so perfect and her stepmother isn't the malevolent matron we've come to expect from the Brothers Grimm.

I seem perpetually drawn in by books that promise to give me a new perspective on a story that I think I know well.  All the Ever Afters, by Danielle Teller, not only delivers well on that promise, but it also explains some of the more ridiculous bits of the original Cinderella story through a great main character and some solid reasoning.  What made Agnes's story so compelling to me is that she isn't just a survivor who clawed her way to the top.  She is a hardworking, caring woman who has tried not to let the misfortunes in her life embitter her (no matter whether they were the result of others' bad choices or her own).

As she tells her story, Agnes invites the reader into her confidence by pointing out flaws in the familiar fairy tale.  The prince couldn't remember what his beloved dance partner looked like and so had to have every maid in the kingdom try on her lost shoe?  Really?  That kind of makes him either blind or stupid, doesn't it? I think my favorite part of the book, though, is the way Agnes extracts observations about human nature from the kinds of tales we are willing to believe about others.  Pure brilliance.

If you enjoy fractured fairy tales and astute insights into human nature, you'll want to pick up All the Ever Afters.


We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”