Wednesday, April 10, 2013

AFTERWARDS by Rosamund Lupton

A school fire leaves a mother, Grace, and her teenage daughter, Jenny, critically injured.  Previously a victim of an unidentified hate mailer, the daughter may have been an intended casualty of an arsonist.  The author utilizes an unusual device for uncovering the facts: both women's spirits are able to leave their comatose bodies and communicate with each other but no one else.  We know that Grace went into the burning school to get Jenny out, but Jenny's memory of her own actions have some gaps.  As the background story unfolds, an avalanche of possible suspects, including a friend's abusive husband, a teacher who was fired, and Grace's young son, Adam, makes for a fast-paced suspense novel.  Each time I thought I had it figured out, I would realize that, no, my solution was too obvious.  Some reviewers have compared this novel to the work of Jodi Picoult, but I think Lupton deserves more credit than that.  I find Picoult's books to be melodramatic and predictable, whereas this novel is anything but predictable, except perhaps for the ultimate fate of the two main characters.  I found myself on a dizzying merry-go-round, as each new suspect and his or her motive came to light.  Fortunately for all concerned, Grace's sister-in-law, Sarah, is a tenacious police detective who relentlessly follows up on every clue, often unwittingly accompanied by Grace's invisible out-of-body spirit.  I did not find the supernatural angle to be distracting to an otherwise realistic plot.  In fact, I thought the author did an excellent job with this device.  She convincingly conveys Grace's and Jenny's frustration at having an almost omniscient presence, gleaning facts from scenes that they invisibly witness, with no means of sharing these findings with their loved ones.

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