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Adult; Self-Help; (Market)

AfterLIFE: Waking Up from My American Dream, empowers the reader to live with purpose and to know that change is possible. It shares a story of transformation in a way that gives the reader a sense that this is their journey. With introspection and honesty, AfterLIFE shows how living the American Dreams does not guarantee a life of happiness.

 Carlo Sanfilippo spent many years living what he thought was the American Dream. A prescribed path of marriage, kids, a house, and all of the things he was supposed to have and do. But missing was a life where he felt authentic, fulfilled, and in control.  

It took a series of devastating losses for Carlo to realize that he was living a half-life. In the aftermath of those events, he discovered a path that would set him on a journey of jumping off the hamster wheel, and creating a life filled with discovery, mental release, spiritual delight, and new mastery.

So, witness through a front seat view, how to start living the life you want. 

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10


Idea: In a genre that is absolutely saturated with books from those who have gone through transformations and want to share their journey with others, After Life, stands out among the clutter. It is well-written, brutally honest, and engaging without being preachy.

Prose/Style: Often, writers of self-help books like these are misguided and believe they need to have a book that is filled with medical jargon, deep scientific prose, or analytical rhetoric. Sometimes, simplicity is perfection, especially when it's so emotionally well-written as the author has done here. This book is the writer's journey, but he shares it so well that it becomes a reflection of what the reader is feeling too.

Originality: The book stands out in originality for one simple reason: it's written by a male, who shares that he needed to go through a transformation after a divorce. Honest feelings of feeling lost, not giving as much of himself as he could as a father and husband, and understanding that the change had to come from within is needed in this market. This author's deep introspection and candor is a beacon among the other self-help books.

Character Development/Execution: The book is structured well, written well and takes readers on a clear emotional and physical journey. This is one of the best self-help/memoirs readers will have encountered in a long time.

Date Submitted: January 01, 2021

Sanfilippo’s debut reconstructs his life story, approaching it with focused intention, self-understanding, and joy -- and using it as an example to inspire others to get off autopilot. After a divorce and the loss of both parents, Sanfilippo realized that the apparent triumph of having accumulated the hallmarks of success—the house, the car, a booming financial planning business—were not the manifestation of his true dreams. Instead, they stood only as remnants of the life he thought he was supposed to live. AfterLIFE recounts his diving into art, mprov, travel, and therapy, and finally finding what he feels is authentic growth and deep satisfaction with his world.

Sanfilippo writes straightforward and relatable prose that persuasively communicates the delight he now finds in building furniture, performing with others, and connecting with clients. He’s less successful, though, when framing his story as practical advice for readers. The book at times occupies an uncertain no-man’s-land between letting Sanfilippo’s experience passively serve as an inspiration and offering a self-help guidebook with structured lessons. Readers with fewer resources and opportunities than Sanfilippo may feel disappointed that much of his advice targets reasonably well-off people whose challenges come primarily from internal expectations and not outside factors.

Sanfilippo powerfully affirms the value of a “mid-life crisis”—a process of realignment that too often is culturally minimized—and of the possibility of finding new meaning and ways to relate to others. Some suggestions in the memoir expose parochialism, such as his assertion that, when out of the country, saying “please” and “thank you” in a foreign language yields special treatment to someone perceived to be respecting culture. His elevation of the “yes and” concept from improv to life philosophy is broadly applicable, as is his belief that being unhappy does one’s children no favors, but Sanfilippo’s chief strength is his skillful grounding of personal experiences in self-love and self-trust, with an air of vulnerability that will appeal to readers.

Takeaway: Adult readers discovering that the “American Dream” is not offering satisfaction will find Sanfilippo’s story a gentle nudge for pursuing personal growth.

Great for fans of: Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Patricia Ryan Madson’s Improv Wisdom

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B

Literary Titan

For two decades, Carlo lived a life that wasn’t his and chased dreams that were handed to him. Influenced by his childhood experiences and society, he conformed to standards set by others for him. On the surface, his life was picture-perfect. He had a great job, a family, a big house, and many things he thought he needed. But deep down, he was secretly dissatisfied with his life but paid no attention to the whisper that urged him to explore his curiosities and live on his own terms. The turning point came when he lost his mom, stepfather, dad, and marriage within four years. These tragic events thrust Carlo into a deep dark pit. Feeling like he had lost all that defined him, Carlo was forced to examine his life and find himself. He rose like the phoenix from the ashes and began chasing the life he wanted.

Carlo Pietro Sanfilippo’s AfterLIFE is a true story of how the author dared to venture beyond the confines of a lifestyle prescribed by society. It displays the difference between going for what we want and accepting what life throws at us. Carlo shares the lessons he learned on the journey to purposeful living, hoping that others can benefit from them.

You know why this is different from many other self-help books you’ve read? It’s real and practical. I mean, you can actually try the things Carlo did by adapting them to the context of your situation. He took seemingly small but highly influential decisions that turned his life around. And the best part is a lot of these choices revolved around him becoming more self-aware and changing his mindset.

One point that struck me was that as much as we might like to find reasons outside of ourselves for why we aren’t doing the things we want, we are primarily the ones holding ourselves back.

I couldn’t help but note that the decision to embrace our true selves will have ripple effects on those in our sphere of influence. It could encourage them to do the same, thereby helping us draw even more satisfaction from life by seeing those we love being their best selves partly on our account.

AfterLIFE is an insightful memoir that takes readers on an enlightening journey of self-discovery with an immersive story you will not soon forget.