Reviewed: “After Before” by Jemma Wayne

60.jpgJemma Wayne took me for a ride with After Before.

There are breathtaking highs and bumpy lows in this story of three women; Lynn, a dying fifty-eight year old who gave up everything for her family, Vera, a lost late twenty-something who gave up her family, and Emilienne, a young woman who lost her entire family.

Aspects to the story make it deserving of five stars and aspects of the story make it worthy of just three stars. So I give it four stars, because the ending brought tears to my eyes and made me want to tell people to read it despite the flaws.

The flaws themselves are really personal preference issues.

Vera was a wild-child at university and in the story she carries a bible with her and begs God to make her good and worthy now. She doesn’t do this so much because she is a born-again Christian, it seems, as she does because Luke, Lynn’s son and Vera’s fiance, is extremely devout and she wants to be “worthy” of him and the expectations he has set for her. As an agnostic single woman, I can’t identify with her very much. I wanted to her to decide that she is good enough, no matter what Luke thinks she should be, and that if he can’t accept it, he can’t have her. There were brief flashes of her leaning that way but she never seemed to follow through.

And it isn’t that I can identify with Lynn much better, but I do like her more. She comes across to Vera as cold, harsh, and unforgiving but it is only because she has set up a complicated and delicate web of support to keep herself moving in life and her diagnosis starts to shatter that. It’s hard to judge her for her actions toward Vera, who reminds her so much of herself, given that.

Lynn shines, though, when it comes to Emilienne – usually called Emily in the story. A survivor of the Rwandan genocide, Emily becomes the at-home carer for Lynn when Vera cannot do it. Lynn and Emily are the most unlikely of companions but they quickly become for each other exactly what the other never knew they needed. It is not the easiest relationship, but it is the best. It is tragic and it is beautiful in it’s tragedy.

Not knowing much about the Rwandan genocide, the most fascinating part of the book is Wayne’s carefully written backstory for Emilienne. It is harsh and it is unforgiving and… I don’t imagine the genocide there was anything else.

This book is not for those who want stories of easy happily ever afters. But if you want to read something that will make you think and make you wonder and something that will stick with you long after you read it, you should read this book.

I received a copy of After Before from NetGalley and Legend Press in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

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