Rosamund Lupton's "Sister" was my favorite book of 2011, and is probably in my top 10 of all time. Her second book "Afterwards", another very well written literary thriller, uses a similar theme and is another winner.
Grace Covy is an ordinary 39 year old mother of two children. Grace has a loving relationship with her husband and is devoted to her children. She has a part-time job, however, does not feel she has been as successful in her career, as she might have wished. In a split second, Grace's world changes dramatically, while visiting during sports day at her children's private school. Jenny, her beautiful 17 year old daughter, is the on-site nurse for the day, and is inside the school when the catastrophic fire starts. Without a moments hesitation, Grace runs into the building to save her daughter.
Both mother and daughter sustain life-threatening injuries and are in a coma in the hospital. Similar to the movie "Ghost" and the book "The Lovely Bones" mother/daughter come to realize, they can leave their bodies and move freely around and talk, but only with each other. No, they are not dead, perhaps relegated to that place in-between life and death where one awaits their fate. During this out of body experience, Grace learns that the school fire was not an accident, but an act of arson. Grace also learns that Jenny may still be in danger.
The secondary characters are as vividly drawn as Grace and Jennifer. Grace's well-known husband Mike, works for the BBC and has already endured the loss of both of his parents at a young age. Adam their 8 year old son, is a gentle child, who adheres to the rules of gallantry/honor and is called Sir Covey by his family. When his participation in the fire is called to question, he literally loses his ability to speak. Grace's sister-in-law, Sargent Detective Sarah McBride takes over the case. The two sister-in-laws have never been the best of friends. Sarah, the older sister, has been both mother and father to Mike. Sarah risks her job in order to see that justice is served for her brother and his family. In this book, the villains wear ordinary faces and are written with subtle shades of gray to delineate them from caricatures.
Rosamund Lupton worked as a scriptwriter and she knows exactly when to end a chapter and how to begin the next to garner the most suspense. While she uses a tad too many subplots, she is able to tie them all up coherently at the end. This is a fast paced and very suspenseful thriller with a touch of the paranormal. What makes the book special and one I will remember is the love and loyalty Grace and Sarah feel towards family no matter what the cost.
Ordinary people in very dire circumstances who deliver heart and soul. Very highly recommended.
Grace is attending a school sports event. Her 8 year old son, Adam, is competing, while her 17 year old daughter Jenny is working inside the school. When fire erupts inside the school, Grace tears inside to rescue her daughter. Both are dragged from the school, unconscious. The rest of the book is narrated by Grace from her coma in hospital. While she and Jenny are unconscious, they are able to move outside their bodies and to observe the police investigation to find out who started the fire. As it becomes apparent that someone is still trying to ensure that Jenny does not survive, the investigation takes on an increasingly desperate tone.
This is a clever novel, part mystery, part thriller, part story of a mother realizing what her family means to her. The premise of Grace's "spirit" narrating the book takes a little getting used to. At first I thought she was dead, and I was also confused by the fact that the entire book is written as if she is talking to her husband. As a mystery, it works well. There are plenty of red herrings and a couple of genuine twists that you don't see coming. It is terribly drawn out though. The pace could have been quicker and repetitive segments either left out or trimmed. I never felt like giving up on it - I wanted to know how it would come together - but I did find some of the journey tedious. Plus I could see the ending (not the "whodunnit") coming a mile away.
I'm tossing up between 3 and 4 stars. This is a very readable book, but ultimately I didn't feel involved enough in it. I'd recommend it, but I wouldn't classify it a "must read".
on November 6, 2011
I virtually never read mysteries, except P.D.James and all of the late Batya Gur. But I will read Rosamond Lupton as soon as a book comes out. I bought this, do not remember why, from Amazon.uk because apparently her work is more available or more popular in England than in USA. Here's my take on her magical skills:
You open a novel, whether "Sister" which was purely perfect or "Afterwards", which has flaws I'll get to, and you are moving as fast as you can because she makes you instantly hooked, instantly fascinated. There is some magic in that feat. No matter your mood or time of day or night (I opened this, mistake,to take a look on last Saturday morning and it was 6 PM when I finished losing a day in which I had much to do.)
I cannot yet analyze how Ms.Lupton pulls this off. Usually I can read as a writer but apparently her way with a story just makes me fully immersed without observing what she does that is so compelling.
Even with the flaws here--too many characters, too convoluted as to who did what and when, as to even the villians, IT DID NOT MATTER to me. Anyone who writes in a way that I literally panic if I put the book down for five minutes and then panic when I'm not sure where I left it, has my 5 star vote. I don't know why the author got overly convoluted. Maybe she gets bored if she is not creating massive suspense, but I recommend this not despite its flaws, but because the flaws don't really matter. I know this does not make logical sense but it makes fictional sense. She is just great. Thanks Rosamund for another great read. Keep em coming!!!
Lupton is a master of psychological suspense, the new novel bringing her unique perspective to an idyllic marriage touched by tragedy. Grace Covey loses all sense of the world around her when she realizes her children's school is on fire. Adam, eight, is safely outside, but seventeen-year-old Jenny was scheduled to work on the third floor. Mother and daughter meet on the stairs as the roof crashes over them and black smoke fills the sky. We meet them next in the hospital, Grace in surgery, Jennifer swathed in bandages as Mike Covey, a BBC journalist, dodges a demanding press to learn the fate of his wife and daughter. Grace and Jennifer exist in a strange alter-state, the drama unfolding as they observe, albeit unable to communicate with their loved ones.
The police determine the cause of the fire was arson, in search of the culprit; simultaneously, Grace becomes aware of a continuing threat to Jennifer, the bonds of motherhood more powerful than the frail tethers of life and death. Regardless of the definition of her current state of existence, Grace is infused with a mother's urgency and the determination to protect her family. That Lupton creates this particular scenario- and makes it believable- is a testament to her skill as a writer and her vision in expanding the boundaries of the possible. The pure emotion of a mother in crisis is distilled in the fiery Grace, who will not allow defeat in this most important challenge. Sharing the intimacies of a happy marriage and the rewards of motherhood as the poignant tale unfolds, Lupton's protagonist's spirit is undiminished through incapacity. Rather, she is incandescent with purpose.
Lupton maintains the frantic pace of the novel, Grace, and sometimes Jennifer, listening in on doctor consults, monitoring Mike's response to the changing conditions of his loved ones (buoyed by his courage in the face of overwhelming tragedy), assessing police response to the threat to Jennifer and the direction of the investigation, yearning to comfort a young son thrust into a nightmare, struggling to comprehend an incomprehensible ballet of fate and malicious intent, as nerve-wracking as it is fascinating. With a superb grasp of human nature in all its subtle shades, Lupton's characters are multi-dimensional, sympathetic even in their flawed and often shocking behavior. The suggestion that there is more to life imbues the novel with otherworldliness, enhancing a tale that is both uplifting and heartbreaking. There are no happy endings, "but there is an afterwards". Luan Gaines/2012.
on September 2, 2012
The end of this book left me feeling at peace if you can believe it. The entire time that I read this book, there was always a chance that things would work out with a happy ending or that there would be a happy ending. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I always hold onto the hope that there will be a happy ending.
I wasn't expecting the book to go the way that it did, but then again, after I started it and I had that thought, I wondered what I was expecting, and then I realized that I had no idea what I was expecting but what the book was, I didn't expect. I still really enjoyed this book. What I didn't realize was that the book was about Grace and her daughter Jenny stuck in the in-between.
After being badly injured the in fire, Grace and Jenny try to come to peace with what happened while also trying to figure out how this happened. I loved that Grace's sister in law, a police detective, tried her hardest to solve the mystery of who set this fire. I loved that even though they didn't see eye to eye, she still fought her hardest to protect Grace and her family when she couldn't.
This book lead you down so many different paths of who did it and why that you don't even know until the very end why it happened which I thought was so messed up but at the same time I thought it was brilliant. A lot of people seemed disappointed in this book (at least the top reviewed on goodreads). I felt very at peace with the ending of the book which was surprising to me. I totally loved it and how it discussed the mother/daughter relationship.
on May 14, 2012
Grace is a wife and mother who finds herself trapped in her own body when she awakens in a hospital. She can't open her eyes or move a finger. She yearns to scream, but is unable. Using every fiber of her will, she tries to move the heaviness of her inert body, until she finally slips free of it, emerging into the gleaming sterile whiteness of the room, where she gazes at her own comatose body as a doctor pries open her eyes. Addressing her husband, she explains how she became unconscious and unresponsive.
Grace remembers that it's sports day at the school their son Adam attends. It also happens to be his eighth birthday. On this day, Grace's 17-year-old daughter, Jenny, has been assigned to work as the school nurse. Grace is horrified by this idea, saying it's too much responsibility for a teen, but Jenny laughs off her fears, saying it's just a sports day, not a car race. She will be fine, up in the third-floor nurse's office. Grace is out on the Sidley House playing field watching the students run races when Adam asks if he can retrieve his birthday cake from inside the school. Rowena, the teenage daughter of Grace's friend Maisie, offers to go with him. While he's gone, Grace watches for Jenny, who should arrive on the field any minute.
When Adam doesn't return immediately, Grace looks at the school building and sees thick black smoke pouring from it. Knowing her children are in danger, she races for the building. She is relieved to see that Adam is outside the school, being comforted by Rowena. Not seeing Jenny, though, she runs into the burning building, choking on the smoke and screaming her name. She knows Jenny is on the third floor, so she fights her way through flames and smoke, climbing stairs until she finds her. Grace drags Jenny toward the school's doors, but before she can reach the bottom of the stairway, something hits her. She falls and everything goes black.
Now, in the hospital, watching her own body being worked on by medical personnel, Grace knows she must find Jenny again. She screams at doctors and nurses, demanding they tell her where her daughter is. No one can hear her. She is both invisible and silent to everyone else. Finally, Grace discovers Jenny in the emergency room, so badly burnt as to be unrecognizable. She only realizes this terribly damaged patient is her daughter when she sees Jenny's sandals on the bed. When Grace shouts Jenny's name, she hears an answering voice. While medical staff wheel the stretcher with Jenny's physical body on it, she puts her arms around the Jenny who is crouched on the floor, asking, "What are we, Mum?" Grace doesn't know the answer to this question, but she doesn't have time to contemplate it. As she watches and listens, she discovers a terrible mystery that she must solve in order to protect her family.
Author Rosamund Lupton spins an unusual yet completely believable tale centered on a mother's determination to do whatever it takes to keep her kids safe, even though her body is incapacitated. It is difficult to decide what to praise most highly in AFTERWARDS. Should it be the people who live and breathe on these pages? The perfect pacing of the plot? The intriguing who-done-it puzzle? The ticking-clock urgency of Grace's quest to help her children? All of these elements work together in this marvelous page-turner, surely destined for many "Best Of" lists.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon
on April 9, 2013
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.
on May 19, 2011
There's a familiar touch to Afterwards that will certainly please readers of Rosamund Lupton's successful debut Sister, the author again finding an original way to relate a crime incident while at the same time delving deeply into specifically female issues relating to the family, nurturing and protectiveness. There's a danger, particularly since not everyone was convinced by the narrative twist of the first book (I thought it was great) that the author is retreading over familiar ground and just pulling a similar trick over again - this book could just as easily been called Mother. The measure of the book however is again in how successfully it allows the author to get to the emotional core of the subject, and Afterwards does that very well indeed.
Whenever such issues relating to family come up in a crime bestseller, they usually stick to a fairly standard template of parental neglect, alcoholism and abuse, or they go for the emotional button-pushing of the kidnapped innocent child. There are other ways of dealing with the everyday concerns and connections that exist between a mother and her children, but it's true, they aren't usually quite as exciting as the blockbuster treatment. In Afterwards however the author comes up with a thrilling twist to show the deep concerns that one mother, Grace Covey, has for her two children. In a variation on the Sunset Boulevard opening (where a man lying dead in a swimming pool narrates the circumstances leading up to his death), Afterwards opens with Grace Covey in a hospital bed, in a coma, injured while trying to rescue her 17 year-old daughter from a fire that has burned down the school during a sports day. Grace follows what is happening through an 'out of body' experience, and learns that the burning of the building may have been a deliberate attempt to kill her daughter.
The narrative twist might not work quite so well this time around for some, feeling a little more manipulative in its tone, Grace's motherly instincts coming across just a little bit over-solicitous and middle-class mumsy, but she does at least have good reason for her concerns and the narrative device makes it work. The 'out of body' experience allows those concerns to be expressed in a much more personal way, touching on the whole range of niggling voices, insecurities and fears of a mother in a compelling and sympathetic manner. As a result Afterwards manages, after Sister, to be another incredibly tense and suspenseful thriller, the whodunit element handled expertly through an unusual narrative perspective that nonetheless does not feel as manufactured as most thrillers of this type. It also carries within it a real, powerful emotional core with a punch at the end that will literally leave you gasping for breath.
on April 11, 2012
This was a good book. It was interesting in that the story is told mostly through the eyes of the spirit of Mom, Grace. She has been badly injured in a school fire after she ran in to save her daughter Jenny, who was also seriously hurt. While their physical bodies are being taken care of in a hospital burn unit, the "spirits" of Grace and Jenny follow family members around as they try to piece together evidence to determine who set the fire and why. The main investigating is done by Grace's sister-in-law, Sarah, who is a police officer.
This really came down to a story about the love we have for our families - Sarah trying to solve the murder mystery out of love for her brother and his family. The Dad - working hard to keep his family protected. And finally, Grace's spirit, with a decision she makes out of love for Jenny.
While the story was occasionally wordy and just a little lengthy, I did enjoy it.
This is the second book that I have read by Rosamund Lupton and I would not hesitate to read any future books she may write
on September 16, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Sister' by Ms. Lupton so was anxious to read 'Afterwards.' I was not disappointed.
'Afterwards' is a psychological mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Ms. Lupton certainly knows how to develop her characters and I felt as though I knew most of them. The protagonist is Grace who is critically injured in a school fire trying to save her teen-age daughter, Jenny, who is also severely injured. The novel is narrated by Grace's 'spirit' as she speaks (or maybe she's writing) to her husband. Grace's 'spirit' and Jenny's 'spirit' converse throughout the novel as they try to determine who the arsonist is.
This talented author helps us to understand the love of a mother for her child and the importance of family love. My only complaint is that, at times, the story moves very slowly and that was mostly due to the thoroughness of the police investigation. Otherwise, great job! I will be thinking about this story for a long time, I'm sure.