Katie Ganshert is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers. She creates flawed yet enormously appealing characters who move through challenges and relationships in an interesting fashion. (She also writes engaging speculative fiction as K.E. Ganshert.) I received her newest novel, Life After, to read and review, to my great anticipation!
Autumn Manning boards a train one snowy evening carrying a box of items. Distracted, she vaguely acknowledges those around her. There’s a variety of people around her: an older man wearing a John Deere cap; a mother with a small child; a professional woman with an expensive handbag; an artistic-looking young woman. And others. As Autumn returns a text she’s just received, the unthinkable happens and the train explodes.
Autumn survives the blast, with physical injuries that keep her in the hospital until she’s pronounced healed and is released. But the emotional injuries, the invisible ones, aren’t so easy to diagnose or to fix. Night after night, she is startled awake by nightmares. And guilt. Why did that man plant the bomb? Why did 22 people die? And why did she survive; 1 out of 23 people in that car?
Autumn doesn’t have any answers. She doesn’t know why she survived, she doesn’t know how or when she’ll return to work, and she doesn’t know why she’s avoiding her fiance Chad, nor why she feels slightly angry when she sees him. Also, she doesn’t know how to answer the letters she keeps receiving.
In another part of town, therapist Paul Elliott is picking up the pieces–or trying to–after having lost his wife, and the mother of his two children, in the same explosion Autumn survived. He thinks his kids are doing better than they are; but he hasn’t really been able to fully process the loss with them. He’s keeping food on the table, getting kids to school…but his daughter is reaching out for help in ways he’s completely unaware of.
Paul, Autumn, and the Elliott kids are pushed together in the most unexpected of ways. And perhaps healing will finally come for them all.
I always approach a Katie Ganshert book with great anticipation. And Life After completely delivered! I really liked the main characters; and appreciated the supporting cast as well. (Although I must admit there were times when I wanted to smack Autumn’s sister. ) The story is well-crafted and unfolds some quite surprising truths and events to all the characters.
I really liked Autumn, especially. I thought Ganshert’s description of a person walking out life following an enormous trauma rang quite true. Her questions, her (at first) fumbling attempts at rejoining the living, her reactions were all quite truthfully presented. She was also an honorable and gracious person, when dealing with others’ “secrets” and losses.
Life After is excellent contemporary inspirational fiction. It presents a person honestly trying to work through the “whys” of a tragedy; many of which those who suffer it might never know fully this side of heaven. I also love the way Ganshert wove in mystery and even a little (but not too much) romantic interest. It’s a great book, very timely for the day and age we all live in.
You can discover more about Katie Ganshert and her writing and books at the following social media sites:
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I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.