Katie Ganshert’s ‘Life After’ a deeply moving story of survivor’s guilt

By G. Robert Frazier

Tragedies resulting from accidents, shootings, bombings, or even natural disasters often result in stories about the victims lost: who they were, what they did during their lifetime, the dreams they’ll never achieve.  In Life After ($14.99, Waterbrook), the new novel from Christy Award-winning author Katie Ganshert, the story surrounds the lone survivor of a train bombing in Chicago and the lives of those left behind. It is a novel that is deeply moving and enthralling from the first page.

Life AfterThe novel picks up almost a year after the fatal bombing that claimed the lives of twenty-two people. Survivor Autumn Manning was injured in the blast but survives, if living with twelve months of grief and survivor’s guilt can be called that. Autumn spends much of her existence after the bombing asking “why?” Why did she survive when so many others did not? Why did God allow such a thing to happen? They are the same questions many of the families of the other victims also ask.

When she unexpectedly encounters Paul Elliott, the husband of one such victim, and her daughter, Reese, her life takes an even more complicated turn. Both Paul and Reese are also struggling  to “move on” from their loss in different ways, causing increased tension between them. Reese convinces Autumn to put together an enduring tribute to the victims of the bombing, but Paul resists, fearing the truth about his relationship with his lost wife will come to the fore.

Katie GanshertGanshert’s prose is simple, poignant, and above all emotionally stirring. The story moves swiftly, alternating between Autumn and Paul’s point of view. If it loses any steam it is when the novel veers in the middle to recount some of the testimonials from other survivors’ families. Fortunately, such diversions are short-lived and the emotional conflict between Autumn, Paul, and Reese rightfully takes center stage again.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

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