Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Heidi Reads... Life After by Katie Ganshert

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

My Review

Wow. There are so many things I thought about while I read this book. Surprisingly, I didn't cry (which I tend to do with books dealing with grief), but felt very introspective. I think that's due to Autumn's detached observations, her coping mechanisms, and the deep questions she and other characters wrestled with. The book started a bit slow for me as things began to unfold and be revealed, but the pace steadily picked up and I appreciated the time I was able to take with each level of Autumn's reemergence into a functioning life. The part that hit home to me personally was when Paul was reflecting on how his children had grown. It made me think of my relationship with my own 10 year old daughter and how I can preserve our bond and sense of unity that seems to come so naturally when they are younger.

"There were moments when Reese still seemed so young and innocent, but even more moments like the one he experienced with Tate as he carried him up the stairs, only instead of her weight or height catching him off guard, it was her... apartness. There were more and more pieces of his daughter that were becoming a mystery to him. It filled Paul with the same sense of alarm that it had with Tate. The same sense that if he didn't grab something quick, this monumentally important thing would slip away."

The book explores many angles of the timeless question of why bad things happen, or why God allows bad things to happen. The thoughts and processes of the characters were natural and realistic, and I loved the profound conclusions they came to as they interacted with each other and learned from the insights shared. Autumn's developing relationship with the Elliot family brought light and hope to her, them, and to the overall story. I especially enjoyed 6 year old Tate and his mannerisms- he practically jumped off the page! I didn't expect a romance to come out of the circumstances, so it was a pleasant surprise, especially when I wasn't sure if I should be rooting for Seth, Autumn's former fiancee, or Paul, who was dealing with more baggage than he could handle. The extended family of Autumn and Paul play important roles that illustrate the variety of family situations, the imperfections, and the love and loyalty we share in spite of it. The way the author wove so many aspects and themes together is beautiful and I highly recommend this novel!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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