Wow! What a book, and what a response!
I’ll start with the book first. I actually enjoyed this book, partly because I know Kristin Hannah’s writing well enough to know that we would have a happy ending at the conclusion of the all the angst. But this volume really plumbed the depths when it came to the sordid realities of life, such as how a teenaged girl can fall apart so completely that she courts dangers in the shape of a menacing young man with guy-liner and tattoos. Of course it is not the guy-liner nor the tattoos that make him menacing. Rather, it is the expression in his eyes and way way he stalks her. Unfortunately, Marah Ryan is all of 18 years old, and although a child both emotionally and in her lack of judgement, is an adult in the eyes of the law. And so her father is powerless to helps her when she makes such horrible choices.
Then there is Tully. Poor Tully is one of those women who are now becoming increasingly common in our culture, who have a blazing career and a dismal home life. When she walks away from her TV show “The Girlfriend Hour” to care for Kate in the last volume FIREFLY LANE, it never occurs to her that she is ruining her career. We find out in this volume just how unforgiving people in showbiz are. And so Tully’s life craters. A workaholic, she has nothing to do all day, until she hits upon the bright idea of writing a memoir.
But Tully is so lonely. And like so many of Kristin Hannah’s alpha female characters (Meghan Dontiss in BETWEEN SISTERS comes to mind) she doesn’t have a clue as to how to take care of herself. She drinks, she gets high, she even snorts, and (of course) the men around her are the worst specimens one could never hope to meet.
So when Marah, in a fit of pique, sells her godmother’s secrets to the newspapers, Tully his rock bottom. Which is when she has the car accident that is the engine that drives the novel, since this novel is about the long road to recovery after a terrible (and terrifying) accident.
As promised, Kristin Hannah’s characters find redemption in the end, but what a ride we are on!
As in FIREFLY LANE, Ms. Hannah deploys her considerable craft in the cutting back and forth between past and present (and in this volume The Afterlife), which she did brilliantly. I loved how she fed her readers important details bit by bit and NOT in chronological order. IMHO this novel was both brilliantly paced AND a masterclass in how to deal with backstory. So it was a shame to see how many readers were disappointed by this novel, because, they said, it was so depressing. I get that, I really do. But personally, I found this volume un-put-down-able. Five Stars.