Title: A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
In her exquisite new novel, acclaimed author Cathie Pelletier presents a witty and refreshingly candid portrait of grief, intergenerational conflict, and the impact one person can have on those he loved.
Bixley, Maine. One year after Henry Munroe’s fatal heart attack at age forty-one, his doting parents, prudish wife, rebellious son, and wayward brother are still reeling. So is Evie Cooper, a bartender, self-proclaimed “spiritual portraitist,” and Henry’s former mistress. While his widow, Jeanie, struggles with the betrayal, Henry’s overbearing mother is making plans to hold a memorial service. As the date of the tribute draws closer and these worlds threaten to collide, the Munroes grapple with the frailty of their own lives and the knowledge that love is all that matters.
With her trademark wry wit and wisdom, Cathie Pelletier has crafted an elegant and surprisingly uplifiting portrait of the many strange and inspiring forms that grief can take in its journey toward healing.
A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier is an interesting glimpse of Henry Munroe’s loved ones as the one year anniversary of his untimely death approaches. In the days leading up to the memorial service, everyone is still grieving his loss but perhaps their biggest struggle is reconciling the new paths their lives have taken since he passed away.
Henry’s widow, Jeanie, is saddened by her husband’s death but her biggest regret is not getting the chance to confront Henry about his last infidelity with bartender, Evie Cooper. In the year since his death, she has become obsessed with Evie and she spends a lot of her time stalking Evie while trying to work up the courage to confront her about the affair. While Jeanie is wallowing over past mistakes, her fifteen year old son Chad is trying to numb his pain with drugs and alcohol.
Larry Munroe always lived in the shadow of his outgoing, gregarious younger sibling and in the year following Henry’s death, his life is in upheaval. After losing his wife, son and job in a shocking divorce, Larry is now living back home with his parents in the same bedroom he and Henry shared as children. He is sinking into a depression that is more about the loss of his marriage and son than Henry’s death. Larry also has an unforeseen connection to Henry’s former mistress and this too plays a role in his growing despair.
In a sea of sadness, Evie Cooper is an unexpectedly refreshing breath of fresh air. As the “other woman” in Henry’s affair, she is not cast in the best light but there is surprising depth to her character. Evie uses her gift as a spiritual portraitist to help the grieving cope with their losses. As a bartender at the local watering hole, she offers a sympathetic ear when needed but she is also willing to step in and find a solution to a friend’s increasingly dangerous situation.
Of course at the heart of the story are the various memories of Henry. As each of the characters reflect on their respective pasts, a rather unflattering portrait of Henry emerges. Although people were drawn to him, he was rather self-centered and self-absorbed. As the memorial approaches, everyone begins to gain new perspectives on his role in their lives and they begin to make peace with not only his loss, but his flaws and imperfections as well.
While the plot of A Year After Henry is unique, the novel is slow-paced and the overall flow is interrupted by meandering thought tangents and superfluous details. The characters are fascinating and it is enjoyable watching them emerge from their grief and take charge of their somewhat out of control lives. Cathie Pelletier ends the story on a hopeful note as all of the participants say their final goodbyes at Henry’s memorial service.