In The After by Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
Published October 16th, 2012
Source: from the author for review
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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary: There is a reason fairy tales end when they do ... because happily ever after is just the beginning of real life.
Once upon a time in the quaint, forgotten coastal town of Joyce, Washington Emmy Burns existed in the middle of an inconsequential life that resembled a small-town fairy tale; days filled with caring for her daughter Avery, running her small but thriving pottery store, married to the only man she had ever loved. But all of that changed when the fog rolled out one beautiful morning, leaving emptiness where Emmy had stood only the day before. She had seemingly and without a sound vanished into the thick misty air of the Pacific Northwest, taking with her a lifetime of secrets.
In the aftermath Stephen Burns is content telling the police his wife must have simply chosen to walk away from him and their daughter. But Sidney Ruth, Emmy's closest friend, knows the truth. Sidney is the one person who had watched as the vines grew around the dark forest that was the Burn's marriage trapping Emmy inside and keeping everyone who loved her out.
Years of abuse has to lead to this moment. As the days unfurl so do the secrets Emmy kept walled away, leaving the people of Joyce wondering: What really happened to Emmy Burns in her happily ever after?
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro paints a painfully accurate portrait of a domestic violence victim whose own prince turned out to be something different from what she envisioned. From one moment to the next, Emmy is gone without a trace, and her life-long best friend Sidney, knowing what was going on behind the closed doors of Emmy's home, cannot accept the fact that Emmy would simply walk away and leave her daughter behind. A race with time begins to prove that something happened to Emmy, something horrible, but everyone continues to turn a blind eye, even the police.
Books about domestic abuse are never easy reads. When I started this novel, I didn't really know how harrowing it would become. I was hooked by the premise that promised a lot of mystery and heartbreak, and the dark side of a fairy tale gone wrong. Nevertheless, something in the execution fell short of capturing me emotionally. It took me a while to become invested in the story, mostly due to the character of Sidney. While Emmy grew to become a person I love, Sidney was a tough nut. I was put off by her tendency to engage in long monologues that broke the otherwise smooth and easy-flowing narrative. The length she goes to help her friend is admirable, but as a person, I just couldn't connect with her.
Though the emotional pay-off came a bit late, I found myself reading the rest through a veil of tears. It is hard not to, seeing that Emmy is a woman who sacrificed her own well-being in favor of her daughter. I can't imagine any mother staying cool at that. There's a twist too, though I'm fairly certain that you've seen this sort of twist in TV dramas. Still, it comes as a surprise, and the closure is, if tough for all parties involved, a very satisfying one.
All things considered, this is a well-written and powerful family drama, and my complaints are completely based on personal biases. So please do consider giving this book a chance.