Poignant and ultimately uplifting, Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu is a moving story about unexpected bravery and the unlikely path to healing after an unspeakable tragedy.
When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.
Mathieu beautifully illustrates how we each take on guilt and blame for the bad things that happen to us (and to our loved ones), and what it takes to accept that things are not your fault. To move on, and to heal.
Very carefully crafted and thoroughly researched, Afterward follows the aftermath of a horrific crime and shows the different ways it impacts those involved. The children who were kidnapped; their families — and how those challenges and tragedies affect everyone differently. There is no “right” way to react to a tragedy, and there is no “right” way to heal and move on.
Afterward does show the power of good therapy; of friendship and passion and finding the little things that bring you moments of joy. The unexpected relationship between Caroline and Ethan is beautiful, unlikely, rife with problems, but ultimately is the one thing that can help save them both from drowning in their grief and assumed guilt.
Look for this powerful story in stores tomorrow.