After You has many strengths, including an important theme and a compassionate, capable central character who follows her instincts in the face of unsolicited advice. Well structured, with much dramatic tension, After You can stand alone, independent of Me Before You. Significant information from the earlier novel is worked smoothly into the narrative in a way that maximizes suspense.
Readers enjoy seeing the triumph of an underdog, particularly one who has been good to her persecutors and has given them a second chance to treat her decently. Rosalie Ham’s witty writing and clever structure make this novel exceptional. The division of the book into four sections: Gingham, Shantung, Felt and Brocade, is not just a cute way of furthering the sewing motif; rather, the names are symbolic.
O’Connor portrays Emily sensitively and sympathetically. Writers will identify with her need for peace and solitude, co-existing with a yearning for understanding and closeness. Emily’s girlhood friend, Susan Gilbert, who married her brother, Austen, was her closest friend.
Atkins builds Cray as a complex young man capable of intense loyalty, instinctive physical responses that surprise, and deep thought. Cray’s father plays an important role in the novel, as his presence offers the reason we don’t follow the usual path of prison life.
Despite all that, the author makes the story come together and the book is a light fun summer read, especially for those who like dabbling in reincarnation stories. Being a historical fantasy with a spiritual sub-plot the story also brings past social mores, politics, and people from far-flung places to life, as the reader and protagonists rush about from ancient Egypt, through Russia, to other parts unknown.
In Bowen’s Enchanted August, Lottie and Rose are New York mothers of young children, dissatisfied at the way their lives are working out. Lottie’s husband seems to have lost interest in her. Rose’s husband is writing thrillers under a pseudonym, but her poetic talent has been overshadowed by her maternal role. The two women meet at the bulletin board of their children’s preschool, both drawn to a notice about a Maine cottage for rent for August.
California writer Lorraine Devon Wilke presents her new novel, Hysterical Love, from a man’s point of view. Men have been writing from women’s points of view for centuries, not always effectively or convincingly. Entering the heart and mind of a character from a group to which one does not belong is always a challenge and Wilke deserves praise for daring to do it.
Noxon’s gift as character creator compels us to believe in the slightly zany, uber LA Plus One leader of the pack Huck whose apparent ease with all things, comfort with this moment’s offering appeals to the protagonist, Alex’s character. Marked by a Woody Allen type of insecurity and running commentary of self-doubt Alex emerges as a kind of “all man” in a surprising way.
In Chewed Confession, Cheryl Kerwin’s Indie Excellence Finalist Book Award book, characters are connected in a straight-forward linear manner. In this case, the characters in these stories are often friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Thus the main character of one story might casually call a friend or family member and this friend becomes the main character in the following story. This is generally the pattern throughout.
Breadth of vision and the ability to construct tension from the first page maintains the drama as the events wind and twist through each step taken toward the inexorable truth about Perla, her parents, her lineage and her country. It is a journey well worth taking.