Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton (pub date 4/24/12)
“And for a moment he feels my presence. For a second I am a draft on his back, a tingling in his scalp, something touching his thoughts. A mother. A guardian angel. A ghost.”
Imagine being the victim of a terrible incident, and wanting to help uncover the truth about what really happened but being unable to. Not because you are too afraid to speak up, but because no one can see or hear you. For the protagonists in this excellent novel, this is their reality.
Set in England, Afterwards is both a thriller and a story about the power of a mother’s love. Grace is a typical upper middle class wife and mother, whose teenage daughter Jenny and eight-year-old son Adam attend a prestigious private school. On a seemingly ordinary day, Grace is rushing to get her children to school for its annual sports day. Later that day, a fire breaks out in the school, and Jenny is trapped inside the building. In an attempt to save her daughter, Grace runs inside the building and is injured when part of the structure collapses on her.
Grace and Jenny are rescued and rushed to the hospital. Both are in a coma, and it is unsure if either one of them will survive for long. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, both Grace and Jenny find themselves having an out-of-body experience. They are able to see their own bodies, to move around the hospital, and to see and speak to each other. But tragically they are unable to speak to their loved ones, or to the police who are investigating the fire. Grace’s husband and sister-in-law are determined to uncover the truth about who started the fire, and piece by piece, the key players and clues are revealed.
I really enjoyed this inventive and suspenseful novel. Afterwards combines a Law & Order type of story with supernatural elements, creating an engrossing book. The story pulls you in from the first page and keeps you guessing until the very end. The characters feel very real, and Lupton does a great job of depicting the attitudes and social politics of the parents and teachers at the school.
Afterwards is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys thrillers. But it’s also a deeply moving story about the nature of a parent’s love. It’s altogether a compelling and well-crafted book.