LIFE AFTER, BY KATIE GANSHERT
PUBLICATION: WATERBROOK; APRIL 18, 2017
Synopsis: 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.
I just finished an entertaining and moving read, Life After, by Katie Ganshert. This was not at all what I expected when choosing it to review, but overall I really enjoyed it.
Autumn Manning is the only survivor of a train explosion in Chicago, and a year later she is still struggling with enormous guilt. Depression has overtaken her life and changed her socially, romantically and professionally to the point where family members staged an intervention urging her to see a therapist. What no one else knows is that Autumn has been receiving letters from a family member of one of the people that died on the train. Paul Elliott is a successful therapist and writer living with his two children Reese and Tate and helping them move on from their mother’s death on the train a year ago. He certainly doesn’t want reminders of that day and of losing his wife, but suddenly finds himself thrown together with Autumn Manning. As Autumn looks for ways to honor those who died and work through her guilt, both her and Paul find themselves trying to help Reese with her grief while also learning secrets about each other, as well as, having secrets revealed.
I loved the author’s pacing with the plot of this novel, the development of the characters and revealing of several twists and turns. This was definitely not a boring read and truly one that I would have finished in one sitting if I had been able (but life happens and we occasionally have to set down our books). Autumn’s guilt and emotions were very raw and honest, although at times I sort of agreed with her family wanting to tell her to snap out of it. Paul was a fabulous character working very hard to love his children, give them a happy life and keep a secret about his life. He was loving, patient, kind, generous – but also was very human and could blow up when he felt his happy home life with his children was being threatened. There were many wonderful supporting characters, mostly family members of Autumn or Paul, that also added depth to the novel.
This was a wonderful story about moving on from trauma and heart break, as well as, the damage that can occur when secrets are kept. Paul, Autumn and even Reese learn great lessons in this novel about being yourself and allowing others to accept you, rather than living in fear of being judged. I must admit, and not trying to be sacrilegious, I was a little overwhelmed at times with the religious references and aspects of the novel. There was nothing wrong with it per se, however, I didn’t realize that it was Christian fiction until I received the book and began reading it. The book would have worked fine with less of those references, not that they were bad references, I just felt it was a bit overdone throughout the book.
My favorite thing about this novel is how well you get to know each of the characters, as well as the wonderful addition of suspense scattered throughout the story. There were several moments I did not see coming, but everything was relatable and made the story even harder to put down. There are also countless, sweet moments between the characters – especially Paul and Pop playing chess 🙂 Lover’s of women’s fiction, especially Christian fiction, should really enjoy Life After with its fast-paced and emotional story!
*Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Learn more about Katie Ganshert by visiting her web page.