Any time Katie Ganshert’s name is on a book, I know two things:
- I will lose sleep because I *have* to get to the end; and
- The journey from start to finish will be deep and sometimes dark but never without hope.
I have long been a fan of Ganshert’s work. She has birthed some of my favorite fictional characters and her books are ones I don’t easily forget. These things are all true of her newest novel, Life After. (Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of the book through the Blogging for Books program. Review reflects my honest opinion.)
In Life After, Autumn Manning is the sole survivor of an “L” train bombing in Chicago. A year after the tragedy, she is stuck in an obsessive cycle of “why.” Why did she live when 22 others didn’t? Though her physical life was spared, she isn’t really living. Until the daughter of a victim begins writing her letters and one day, Autumn replies.
The girl’s father, Paul Elliott, who lost his wife in the train bombing, wants to put the whole tragedy behind him. He forbids communication between Autumn and his daughter, but their lives continue to intersect and both Autumn and Paul have to face their grief, fears and some hard truths in order to go on with living a full life.
Ganshert’s writing is to reading what exquisite food is to eating: it’s a luxurious treat. But it’s not so fancy that you’re distracted by the word choices.
Here are a couple of my favorite lines. They both happen to be dialogue, but the narrative portions are beautiful, too.
“You know what I think?” Pop said, scratching the whiskers on his chin again. “I think that the second we find ourselves asking ‘Who am I?’ is the second we become the perfect person for the job.”
And, this one:
“I guess that’s what life is, though, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little moments that don’t seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back …” She shook her head. “I don’t know. They become the most profoundly beautiful things.”
Life After is not a light-hearted, feel-good beach read type of book, and that’s not necessarily an insult. It’s fiction, yes, but it’ll take you on an emotional trek through the valleys of grief and post-trauma stress. And it’ll leave you with the hope that even the worst things life can throw at you can turn into good things.
You can find out more about the book here, which includes a look at the first chapter.