Monday, June 16, 2014

After Before by Jemma Wayne

For the widow Lynn, her two sons John and Luke, as well as Luke's fiancé, Vera, and Rwandan refugee Emily, happiness were abandoned a long time ago.

Secrets and hurt After Before, led them slowly and quietly into darkness. Mentally, emotionally, as well as physically, they were slowly dying because of the wounds from their respective pasts that were still mentally bleeding them dry. 

Luke found solace in his dedication to Jesus. It did not matter how his insecurities or strong urge to control, reflected on other people. He was the responsible one; the decision maker, the one calling the shots.

John found his solution in theater and making people laugh.

Lynn had her valuable porcelain collections and her paintings behind a locked door. She gave up her dreams of becoming a historical fiction writer, to fit into her late husband Philip's world and raise her two boys. She secretly treasured her own ambitions and dreams, painting it all onto multiple-colored canvasses where nobody could see them behind the locked door of her studio. 

Vera wanted her savior to be Luke. She wanted to start a new life after drugs, a tragedy, and a mentally abusive relationship with Charles. She wanted to be pure and good and keep her secret hidden from her family and fiancé. But the estrangement from her parents, her decision to become religious and her fear of losing Luke, brought her to a point where the silence became devastating.

Emily, the Rwandan Tutsi refugee, had to endure the truth behind her mother's words: you can outrun the things outside your body, but not the truth hidden inside it. Her lonely road deeper into hell was non-negotiable. She wanted to be left alone with her sorrow in her own silent world that deafened her.

" And all at once, there was an alternative" which none of them ever explored until terminal cancer was diagnosed in Lynn. 

They were forced to open up the chest of darkness, exposing their inner turmoil to searing light. None of them was able to escape while time was running out. The resentment, hatred, insecurities and traumatic memories began their ascend towards light, towards real forgiveness and redemption.

This is a powerful, intense, introspective novel. One that leaves the reader in deep reverie and retrospection. Very well written. There were gentleness, and brutality; insecurity and grace.
I think of the concept 'emotionally charged' when I think back on the experience. A beautiful read. It is a book I would like to read again and can highly recommend it. However, the ending was too much of a cliffhanger in some ways, to really complete the emotional roller coaster ride. But still a very commendable read despite of it. The Rwandan genocide places this book in the historical fiction genre, since an important part of African history is highlighter in the book. I am, however, not sure if it was meant to be classified as such. But it was done brilliantly.

I want to thank Legend Press, through Netgalley, for the opportunity to review this book. 

“That was the day that Mama made the rules: If they come, run. Be quiet and run. But not together. Never together. If one is found, at least the other survives….”

During a cold, British winter, three women reach crisis point. Emily, an immigrant survivor of the Rwandan genocide is existing but not living. Vera, a newly Christian Londoner is striving to live a moral life, her happiness constantly undermined by secrets from her past. Lynn, battling with an untimely disease, is consumed by bitterness and resentment of what she hasn’t achieved and what has been snatched from her. 

Each suffering their own demons, their lives have been torn open by betrayal: by other people, by themselves, by life itself. But as their paths interweave, they begin to unravel their beleaguered pasts, and inadvertently change each other’s futures.

‘Rich, haunted, gripping, painful and beautifully entwined’ Ruth Padel

‘A powerful novel. It's characters will haunt you long after their stories have been told.’ Naomi Gryn 

‘A fearless and meticulously observed examination of pain transformed by the redeeming power of friendship’ Vanora Bennett

‘Cosy domestic scenes in suburban London, brilliantly described, are used to contrast with experiences of absolute horror at the heart of a deep and shaming secret. For life to move on, all must be forgiven, no matter how difficult this may be.’ Phillip Knightley

‘Jemma Wayne has very skilfully managed to weave together not only the alternating strands of her compelling narrative but also passages of intense action with reflective inner monologue. A highly accomplished debut!’ Gerald Jacobs, The Jewish Chronicle(less)

Genres: Historical fiction, Rwandan Genocide, Drama, Family, British author, Jemma Wayne, Literature   
Formats: Paperback | Nook | Kindle
Number of pages: 256 pages
Publisher: Legend Press
Publishing date: June 01, 2014
Edition Language: English
Purchase links: Amazon USA | Amazon UK  | Barnes & Noble


Born to an American musician father, and English mother, Jemma grew up in leafy Hertfordshire and studied Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Westminster. She began her career as a journalist at The Jewish Chronicle and now works freelance splitting her time between journalism, writing for stage, and prose. Her first play, Negative Space, was staged in 2009 at Hampstead's New End Theatre, receiving critical acclaim.

The idea for After Before was first spawned after attending a SURF charity event organised by her husband, in aid of survivors of the Rwandan genocide. It was there that Jemma heard first-hand some of the lingering effects of the 1994 war.

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