I read and adored ‘Sister’ a few years ago, but on advice from my own sister held off on reading her next book, Afterwards, on the basis that the style is very similar and it might lose impact reading two in close succession. I’m glad I did wait, because it is a very distinctive style and the gap meant it felt fresh again. Both stories are told in the form of a narrator speaking to another character; this one from the perspective of a badly injured woman observing, disembodied, her friends and family dealing with a tragic accident/crime – a little like The Lovely Bones, in that it is sort of a mystery/crime plot, sort of supernatural (the conceit of the narrator being a ghost-like presence is the only supernatural aspect) but at least equally a story about family, told from a loving but absent narrator.
I really enjoyed this for many of the same reasons that I loved Sister. The mystery/whodunit aspect is masterful, particularly in the last third of the book as the reveals play out – every time I thought I had the answer the rug would get pulled out from under me again. It also has some nuanced and insightful things to say about relationships, especially parenthood, and independence, which are rare for their ultimate optimism. (I get exhausted with all the stories exploring relationships cleverly but with a cynical eye, finding the ways that we fail, as people, to love each other properly).
On the other hand, it gets a giant thumbs down all the same for making me cry on an aeroplane, which is an extremely embarrassing place to cry (at home, the arrangement is that if either of us are crying at a book/TV show, the crier looks firmly downward, masks it with a sneeze or nose blow, and the other pretends not to notice. On an aeroplane, this is awkward. Yes, please, I would like that drink. No, there’s nothing wrong. *stares steadfastly at attendant’s shoulder until they move on*). Since becoming a parent I am stupidly over-sensitive to parenting related tension – I find it really, really stressful now to read about or watch children or their parents in danger or worse. [Sidebar: I’m also looking at you, A Monster Calls, which is totally off topic, but also an excellent story but a bad choice for people who don’t want this particular stress].
Ultimately, while the style might be offputting to some, and the supernatural aspect likely a difficult thing to swallow for ordinary thriller/crime readers who don’t venture into the speculative fiction or SFF pool, this is a clever, engaging story and one well worth your time.
- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 39 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Hachette Audio UK
- Audible.com.au Release Date: 9 June 2011
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B00NX64AGI
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,643 in Audible (See Top 100 in Audible)