Book Review: Afterwards

afterI thought Rosamund Lupton’s novel Sister was fantastic.  A page-burner in every sense.  Terrific characters, compelling plot, unique writing style.  And then, I read Afterwards.  Rosamund Lupton has done it again… for me, perhaps even more so.  Afterwards is whodunit perfection.

From Goodreads: 

There is a fire and they are in there. They are in there…

Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and rush. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.

Afterwards, Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her children from the person who’s still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.

Ms. Lupton’s writing style is addictive.  She shies away from typical narratives, and embarks on much more creative viewpoints.  In this instance, protagonist Grace and her daughter Jenny are not of this world during the bulk of the novel.  Following the devastating fire, their damaged bodies lay in a hospital, hooked to beeping machines.  Grace and Jenny, however, are free of their physical forms, and their spirits wander the hospital.  They are able to observe their surroundings and speak with one another.  If they can tolerate the pain, they can also leave the hospital grounds.  It’s a fascinating setting.

Grace in particular speaks to her beloved husband constantly, even though he cannot hear a word.  The trick of it all is that there is a sinister presence that is trying to harm Jenny.  Grace needs to discover the culprit of the school fire, and the person who is after her daughter.  How do you do this when you’re not able to function in your earthly body?  Since Grace is able to listen to conversations unnoticed, and follow people undetected, she can help propel the investigation.  But how?  How can she communicate with her husband, her son, and her dynamic sister-in-law Sarah, who is a police officer unlike any other?

How can you put this book down?

What struck me most about Afterwards was the unyielding love behind the story.  Rosamund Lupton effectively intertwines Grace’s fierce devotion to her family with a stunning mystery.  You can feel Grace’s determination to protect her children, but you cannot guess the story’s outcome.  The characters are beautifully penned, and the hints of what is waiting ‘afterward’ are inspiring.  This is a whodunit with more heart than a romance novel.  I loved every minute of it.

I could keep gushing over this clever novel, but I’m afraid that I’ll give too much away.  I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.  I’ll close this enthusiastic review by stealing Grace’s words when she was addressing her sister-in-law Sarah (even though Sarah could not hear her).  Ms. Lupton, “You’re bloody marvelous.”

Can’t wait for your next novel.

5 Stars for Afterwards.

Review: Sister

If you are looking for a smart page-burner, Sister is for you!  Rosamund Lupton spins an enthralling yarn about a sister who leaves her yuppie life in New York to head back home to London to find her younger sister, who has suddenly vanished.  Your heroine is Beatrice, whose determination to find her sister Tess will have you reading well into the night.  I can’t write too much about Beatrice’s search for Tess, because I don’t want to spoil anything.  I will say, however, that the more Beatrice digs into Tess’ past, the more she discovers that she didn’t know every aspect of her sister’s life, as she had always assumed.  Her sleuth work flies in the face of the police, doctors, friends, her fiancé, and even her mother.  But Beatrice carries on, because she cannot give up on Tess.  While she pushes forward to find out the truth about her beloved sister, she inadvertently winds up on a profound path of self discovery, which adds even more humanity to the story. 

The way the book is written is interesting, as it’s in the format of one long letter from Beatrice to Tess.  It took a couple of pages to get the hang of this style, but once you realize that the story will unfold this way, it takes off like a shot.  When you see everything through Beatrice’s eyes, you quickly begin to appreciate her heartfelt observations: 

“I remember word for word your seven-year-old reply to my fragmented homesickness and that your writing was invisible until I shone a torch onto the paper.  Ever since, kindness has smelled of lemons.”

“I get up and pace the room, as if I can leave my guilt behind me.  But it tracks me as I walk, an ugly shadow made by myself.”

Wonderful writing.  Impressions that leave a mark!

The book’s characters are beautifully developed, from the anguished mother of Beatrice and Tess, to the kindly neighbor who looks after Tess’ potted plants.  The story’s dark twist will have you scrambling to turn the pages, as it truly is a terrific whodunit.  4 stars, and I’ll be adding Rosamund Lupton’s Afterwards to my to-read list!