It could have been me.
Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.
A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.
Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.
In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.
GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
“Life is hard, and almost always confusing. but one day we’ll see clearly. One day it’ll all make sense.“
The latest novel from Katie Ganshert is perhaps her most riveting. It’s both poignant and profound, and I know I’ll still be thinking about it for months to come. I’ll also warn you right now that there’s no way I can #swoof (squeeze words out of feelings) accurately enough for this review to reflect how much I loved the book. From the very first words, the story captivated me and I could barely put it down to interact with my inlaws who were here for a visit. (I did, but it wasn’t easy lol)
“We rarely know when death will come. Some are warned in sickness… But others – many others – meet death without any warning at all, in an unforeseen moment that wrenches consciousness in two, separating the living from the dead.
That’s how it would come on this particular evening for twenty-two individuals.”
What do you do when you’re the sole survivor of a far-reaching tragedy? For Autumn Manning, life after the train ride that changed everything is full of survivor’s guilt and grief. Her relationships with those closest to her have changed. Her job goals have changed. Her ability to sleep has changed. Her ability to live has changed. Nothing feels the same. Nothing is the same.
Autumn Manning may have been the sole survivor but she is not the only one whose “life after” points to that day as a starting point. Paul Elliott and his children have been struggling with their own grief and – for Paul – a heaping of guilt as well. As Katie Ganshert connects Autumn’s path with Paul’s, what follows is an emotionally-charged and deeply poignant masterpiece.
“I guess that’s what life is though, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little moments that don’t seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back… They become the most profoundly beautiful things.”
The richness of the characters – and their emotions – is never so complex that it becomes inaccessible but is instead so profoundly human that it resonates in the soul. And in the humanity, Ganshert has woven a subtle thread of faith that, after all is said and done, wraps around the heart like both a comforting hug and a gentle challenge.
In the midst of “the feels”, however, there are moments of levity. Autumn’s internal headline-creating, for example – an element to the story that made her all the more real and authentic, in my opinion. There are also some hints of romance that – while not dominant in the story – made my heart smile.
Bottom Line: The characters you meet on the pages of Life After feel real, their stories grippingly honest. In equal parts sobering and uplifting, the presentation is wholly tender and this is perhaps my favorite aspect of the novel. Exquisitely written and full of authenticity, Life After and its characters will linger with me for quite a while.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 5 stars / Riveting!
Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.
Other Books by Katie Ganshert
What about you? What are some “profoundly beautiful” moments in your life that at first seemed insignificant?