"It could have been me, so why wasn't it?"
Seems that is the most asked questions by those who survive a tragedy while others don't. For Autumn Manning, she was the only person of 23 victims of a train bombing on winter's night in Chicago. It wasn't just where she was sitting, where she got on, or any number of things one might think would provide the answer. All she wants to know is why and more importantly, why can't she move forward, even a year later.
Keeping all her bits and pieces of the accident in a binder, she finds some morbid connection to the 22 who died. To them, she wants to know more about them. To never forget who they were to their own families. What is her point of surviving if she has nothing to offer anyone especially herself. But she has vowed that she will never forget one single person, even visiting their graves, searching the internet for all she can find about who they were, what they did, and even their reason for being on the train, that she almost missed, but didn't.
She struggles with trying to explain things to her own family who believe that after all this time, she needs to find a life for herself, seek a therapist who might be able to help, but give up all this time-consuming processes of trying in her own mind to make restitution or amends some how. Yet when letters begin arriving at her house from Reese, a young 12-year-old girl who lost her mother in the accident, she struggles to find a way to help her deal with the grief and loss she has experienced. For both of them it's journaling their thoughts that help each other find a way through this loss and hopefully to find hope on the other side. When Reese's dad, Paul finds out about Reese's letter writing, he becomes furious. One for not being able to talk to him, a well-known marriage counselor, but two, talking to the one woman he wants nothing to do with. How will they begin to heal when they aren't able to talk to anyone about what it feels like on the inside for all of them?
I received Life After by Katie Ganshert compliments of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers. This is such a poignant novel in that it takes readers into the heart of the victims we don't often acknowledge, those that survive a tragedy, the ones who are called heroes and don't see themselves as one. Even though Autumn wasn't a hero, she has to deal with the animosity of those who wonder why she is so special while their loved one was taken. Where is God in all of this and what would He say? Why did she live and every one else died? What is she supposed to do now? I love how Reese chooses to find an outlet in her communication with Autumn and the unique way they both find a way to heal by remembering and not forgetting. I give this novel a 5 out of 5 stars and look forward to even more books by this author in the future.
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