Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Aftermath by Ann McMan

Aftermath by Ann McMan is the follow up story to Jericho. You may remember Jericho as the romance novel I raved about back in January 2012. Jericho is a fantastic book, though it won't appeal to everyone, and Aftermath is more of the same: wine, background histories all over the place for everything from bleachers to cars to people, lots of words, easy companionship and a great deal of banter.  Jericho was the great literary classic for the ages, this is the lighter, shorter, tale of gossip, rural legends and wine, in which we get to stay in touch with the people and township of the original story.

While Jericho was a romance, this is more of a ramble through local gossip, family, and the events in the area. It's a safe, entertaining read, where you get to just relax with old friends. I don't actually know what genre I'd call it; I guess I'm just going to describe it as "general fiction". It follows up with the main people we met in Jericho, showing us their lives a couple of years later, and giving us a chance to enjoy the status quo that they spent all of Jericho getting to. Basically, it's not nearly as good as Jericho, but if you enjoyed that book, then you'll find Aftermath a very worthwhile followup.

The main stories are the gradual rebuilding after the hurricane, the progression of Syd's divorce and the inevitable return of Henry's father. Henry is the little boy that Syd and Maddie, our lesbian main character couple from Jericho, sort of adopted, while his father was in Afghanistan.

It's a slightly more erratic book, without a real storyline, just a timeline. We know everything's going to work out, and it's fairly easy to see how, most of the time. Nobody important dies, people bond and grow up, and there are descriptions of food. The initial drama is a rather terrifying hurricane, which causes rampant destruction, forcing gay-best-friend David and his husband to move in with Syd and Maddie, creating a giant happy family (...more or less!), of adoptive parents around Henry. We get crude and ridiculous side stories, blackmail attempts all over the place, a car with a seemingly infinite number of parts that went on a rampage of terror during the storm and far, far too many descriptions of spicy food for my comfort. Ugh. I was cringing through the majority of the food descriptions. Maddie's a bit obtuse in this book, getting frustratingly literal towards the end. Many little side issues get resolved, or at least progressed, from adorably uncertain teenage lesbians to Maddie's relationship with her Uncle Art, and the stories of various characters from around the village.

Notable moments include a facepalm-inducing conversation in which things get a bit meta around fanfiction and taking fan-favourite couples and thinly disguised characters, and publishing it as fiction (mentioning Xena was definitely pushing it a tiny bit too far), which was amusing but a bit of a pace change - it was very similar to the short story "Bottle Rocket" in Sidecar, and the truly epic showdown between Maddie's mother and Doris, Syd's mother-in-law, which was probably worth the entire entry fee.

There's a much needed introduction, recapping the events of Jericho and a list of the main characters. I still kept getting the names confused within couples though; I ended up having to remember that Syd was the long one and Maddie was the short one, the inverse of their names. And ha, I found three errors in proof reading. A missed word, an extra quote mark (in the very next sentence) and a little fat dog that "bears" it's teeth.  There's hardly any sex, at least onscreen, though we do get fade to black episodes and a few dirty puns. But this is the sort of book you could safely hand to your mother, or leave lying around the house.

So, in summary? A charming, gossipy wander through family and a rural little town, sightseeing at all the weird, touching or nonsensical events that tend to happen in any community (or... happen somewhere, and then get passed around in rural legend). There is drama, but you never really
worry about how it will come out, and the characters progress and change a bit. The ending is a bit sudden, and bittersweet, but I can see many more books in which we happily follow along with Syd and Maddie's lives.

For more of Syd and Maddie:

You can buy Aftermath on Amazon in both dead tree and kindle format. 

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