Title: After the Fall by Julie Cohen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 396 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the author who brought you Dear Thing, Julie Cohen, comes After the Fall–a poignant, beautifully heartbreaking novel about what it means to be family, the ties that bind us, and the secrets that threaten to tear us apart.
When an unfortunate accident forces Honor back into the lives of her widowed daughter-in-law, Jo, and her only granddaughter, Lydia, she cannot wait to be well enough to get back to her own home. However, the longer she stays with Jo and Lydia, the more they start to feel like a real family. But each of the three women is keeping secrets from the others that threaten to destroy the lives they’ve come to know.
Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.
Jo’s secret could destroy the “normal” family life she’s fought so hard to build and maintain.
Lydia’s secret could bring her love—or the loss of everything that matters most to her.
One summer’s day, grandmother, mother and daughter’s secrets will be forced out in the open in a single dramatic moment that leaves them all asking: is there such a thing as second chances?
After the Fall by Julie Cohen is a multi-generational novel that is quite poignant and heartwarming.
Honor Levinson is a fiercely independent woman who never lets the effects of aging slow her down. However, with one missed step, she takes a tumble down the staircase that results in a broken hip and an unexpected stay with her former daughter-in-law Jo Merrifield, her sixteen year granddaughter Lydia and Jo’s two young children from her second marriage, Oscar and Iris. Honor never warmed up to Jo during her marriage to her son Stephen and following his tragic death nearly ten years earlier, they have barely spent any time in one another’s company. Despite her trepidation about staying with Jo, Honor is pleasantly surprised by her new perspective of her former daughter-in-law and she is delighted by the opportunity to forge a closer relationship with her granddaughter and Jo’s other two kids.
Jo is extremely frazzled as she takes care of her children on her own after her second marriage ends in divorce. Oscar and Iris are rambunctious young kids while Lydia is a fairly typical teen who wants as little do with her mum as possible. Despite her hectic life, Jo is always upbeat and optimistic as she tries to find the positive in even the worst situation.
Lydia is dealing with the typical teen angst but she is also carrying a heavy burden as she tries to keep anyone from discovering her secret. She tries to fly under the radar and avoid becoming a target of her rather mean-spirited classmates who love nothing more than pick on anyone different from them. Lydia and her best friend Avril Toller have been inseparable for years but their once tight friendship is soon put to the test by Avril’s new relationship. As she and Honor grow close, Lydia entrusts her grandmother with the truth she has carefully concealed from everyone in her life.
Despite the less than ideal circumstances that bring the three generations together, this enforced time in one another’s company has a positive impact on their lives. Honor finds an unexpected measure of peace as she finally comes to terms with her son’s tragic death and she gains a newfound appreciation and unexpected admiration for her daughter-in-law. Jo is rather shocked when Honor provides her the chance to occasionally escape her everyday life. After Lydia’s worst fear comes true, she makes a decision that will have unexpected consequences for all three women as the secrets they have tried to keep hidden are forced into the open. In the aftermath, will their newfound closeness endure?
After the Fall is a riveting novel of healing for Honor, Jo and Lydia. The storyline has plenty of depth and the women’s struggles are realistically depicted in a sensitive but forthright manner. The characters are multi-faceted and although it is sometimes not easy to like them, it is impossible not to become fully invested in the final outcome of the issues they are facing. This latest release by Julie Cohen is a heartfelt journey of reconciliation that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.