Life After: A Book Review


Katie Ganshert's Life After is just part of a title. The rest of the title is "...I woke up as the sole survivor of a terrorist train bomb." 

(And look at this pretty picture I took of the appropriately worn library copy against the first-day-of-spring blizzard the northeast was awarded this week?)

There's a lot of heart in this story. Survivor Autumn gets to know the families of the victims  (everyone else on the train) as a way to pay tribute to their memories. She is deeply entrenched in survivor's guilt, and even has some heaped on her by a few families. Others are resilient and see her as a beacon of hope. The entire city of Chicago focuses on her with either hope/faith or anger that she can't or won't be who they expect her to be. One deceased woman's daughter connects with Autumn and, of course, then there's her handsome widowed dad... The story revolves around their intersecting church/work/therapy worlds and the two damaged but tentatively hopeful people forming a relationship.

Story element I could have done without: the "just friends" go to a baseball game. Surely, they won't be put on the big screen Kiss Cam, will they? 

Autumn seems to be true to what I've read about PTSD and survivor's guilt. You definitely see her struggle to even want to "move past" this experience before she can even consider trying to actually do so. She wanders in cemeteries and compulsively clips newspaper articles. She reads about the people online and starts a video tribute for them. Reality shows up when not everything is good and peachy and wonderful. They were real people, with issues.

I had hoped this book would be more about Autumn's recovery as a person and in her relationship with God--and less about her finding romance. (I found this novel researching comps for the novel I finished last year, which focuses on the God-protagonist relationship recovery after a tragedy.) But that's not the book this author chose to write, and I enjoyed it very much. He's FAR more than handsome; she's FAR more than wounded. A giant leap-and-a-half above many Christian romances I've read.