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After Her

After Her

3.5 61
by Joyce Maynard

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Marin County, California, summer, 1979. When young women start turning up dead on the mountain behind the home of Rachel and her devoted eleven-year-old sister, Patty, their father—a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective—is put in charge of finding the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life


Marin County, California, summer, 1979. When young women start turning up dead on the mountain behind the home of Rachel and her devoted eleven-year-old sister, Patty, their father—a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective—is put in charge of finding the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life slowly unravel as months pass and more women are killed, Rachel embarks on a dangerous game to catch the killer. Her actions will destroy her father's career and alter forever the lives of everyone she loves. Thirty years later, believing that the wrong man was arrested for the crimes, leaving the true killer at large, Rachel constructs a new strategy to smoke out the Sunset Strangler and vindicate her father—and discovers more than she bargained for.

Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case, After Her is part thriller, part love story—a poignant, suspenseful, and painfully real family saga that traces a young girl's first sexual explorations, the loss of innocence, the bond shared by sisters, and the tender but damaged relationship between a girl and her father that endures even beyond the grave.

Editorial Reviews

Bookreporter.com on AFTER HER
“Maynard writes great characters and craft a story that will not let you go.”
Real Simple on AFTER HER
“[F]ar from a simple whodunit... [Maynard] deftly conveys that we are never truly safe, but that we can’t let fear stand in the way of our becoming who we want to be.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer on AFTER HER
“Veteran novelist Joyce Maynard has returned with a coming of age story woven into a serial killer investigation that is both evocative and captivating.”
San Jose Mercury News on AFTER HER
“Loosely based on the “Trailside Killer” slayings of the 1970s, the story jumps from history into a many-layered exploration of sibling bonds and innocence.”
Shelf Awareness on AFTER HER
After Her is a masterful piece of storytelling with bits of humor to offset the suspenseful emotions.”
5MinutesforMom.com on AFTER HER
“After Her is an excellent novel, dealing deftly and tenderly with a young girl’s coming of age and loss of innocence, presenting us with characters as great and as flawed as the people we see every day. Here we have a great author writing at the top of her form.”
Labor Day is suffused with tenderness, dreaminess and love....first and foremost a page-turner...[it] puts back together the world that it destroys....you definitely need to get a box of tissues.”
Washington Post
“It is a testament to Maynard’s skill that she makes this ominous setup into a convincing and poignant coming-of-age tale.”
St. Petersburg Times
“an uplifting story told by a boy who is just beginning to understand what life is all about.”
Providence Journal
The Good Daughters shows Maynard’s strengths once again—particularly in vivid descriptions of farm life, geographies, and relationships of all kinds. Passions and psychological changes in a character over time ring most true.”
Jill McCorkle
“Joyce Maynard’s latest novel, After Her, is a suspenseful page-turning mystery, but even more compelling is her memorable portrait of a thirteen-year-old girl and the complicated world she shares with her sister; the intricate details of their life are sometimes hilarious, often heartbreaking, and always endearing.”
Stewart O'Nan
“Part family reminiscence, part girl detective story, After Her combines the intimacy of one teen’s coming-of-age with the suspense of a serial killer mystery. With warmth and redeeming humor, Joyce Maynard delivers the terror and confusion of adolescence.”
People (Four Stars)
“[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience.”
“An evocative story . . . [Maynard] consistently brings emotional authenticity to the long arc of her characters’ lives and to the joy and loss they experience. A profoundly moving chronicle of the primacy of family connection.”
“Vividly rendered.”
“An impressive writer...with a fine sense of time, of place, of humor.”
“Maynard’s spare prose packs a rich emotional punch...a can’t put-it-down mystery.”
AfterEllen.com on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS
“In addition to being a beautiful and engaging story, Maynard deftly captures Dana’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality in the midst of her family’s instability. And her relationship with Clarice is one of the strongest in the novel. Highly recommended. ”
“Maynard is a clever storyteller.”
Entertainment Weekly on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS
“[Maynard] weav(es) a knotty tale of family secrets, told in the alternating voices of her likable main characters.”
Caroline Leavitt
“Passionate, profound, and as stunning as a sparking live wire coming slowly and irrevocably toward you, Maynard’s latest is nothing short of a masterpiece.”
Christopher Castellani
“Though you will be tempted, try not to turn the pages of this complex thriller too fast: you will miss a tender elegy, an evocative coming-of-age story, and a tribute to the enduring bonds of sisterhood.”
Jules Siegel
Booklist on AFTER HER
“An affecting portrait of the relationship between a father and his daughters.”
Publishers Weekly
Bestselling author Maynard (The Good Daughters) returns with the story of a broken family rocked by a real-life Bay Area serial killer. Rachel Torricelli and her younger sister, Patty, idolized their father, a homicide detective with a voice like Dino and an insatiable love for women—especially his daughters. After divorce split up their home, he mostly disappeared, and Rachel, who recounts the story as an adult (and a mystery writer), was content playing backyard games and bossing Patty around. But their play is tinged with darkness in the summer of 1979, when murders begin occurring along Marin County’s hiking trails. The girls’ father is on the case and his sudden star power makes Rachel popular, but she can’t resist chasing clues (some courtesy of “visions”), putting her and her sister in harm’s way. Maynard captures the way that memory works in fragments: Rachel recalls “My Sharona” as the soundtrack of the summer, fusing her perspective with that of the killer, who sings it to his victims. Her retelling also flip-flops seamlessly from her teenage anxieties to the front-page news—a testament to Maynard’s narrative dexterity. This cinematic coming-of-age murder mystery satisfyingly blends suspense with nostalgia. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (Sept.)
(Four Stars) - People Magazine
"[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience."

“[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience.”

Library Journal
In summer 1979, Rachel and her younger sister Patty spend their days biking the hills of Marin County in Northern California and generally being precocious tweens, until young women begin turning up dead in the woods above their home. Their detective father is put in charge of the case that the press dubs the "Sunset Strangler." At first the notoriety of their father's high-profile case is exciting and gains them celebrity status at school, but as the case drags on and more young women die, Rachel sees her father's life unravel and her parents' marriage fall apart. Desperate to save her family, young Rachel sets herself up as bait for the killer, the consequence of which destroys her father's career and nearly costs Rachel her life. Thirty years later, the case remains unsolved, and Rachel makes one last attempt to smoke out the killer and vindicate her father, unearthing dark and startling family secrets in the process. VERDICT This title is loosely based on the Trailside Killer case that terrified Marin in the 1970s. Here the case is seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old, giving Maynard's (The Good Daughters; Labor Day) thriller an interesting twist on what would otherwise be a simple reworking of a cold case of serial murder. Rachel is so focused on saving her father and her parents' failed marriage that everything else in the world around her is merely a blur. [The film adaptation of Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, is scheduled for a January 2014 release.—Ed.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
Kirkus Reviews
Cycling through big themes--love for a flawed father and a loyal sister; the pursuit of a serial killer; coming-of-age/receiving of family wisdom--Maynard's (The Good Daughters, 2010, etc.) latest starts strong but fades. Thirteen-year-old Rachel Torricelli, inseparable big sister of Patty, narrates the story, set in the San Francisco suburbs of the late 1970s. Both girls adore their father, Anthony, a charismatic but inconstant police detective who quits the family home when Rachel is 8, leaving their fragile mother depressed and short of cash. The girls' playground, right behind their house, is Mount Tamalpais, a place full of possibilities, until the Sunset Strangler begins raping and murdering women there. With her handsome father on television leading the murder investigation, Rachel suddenly finds herself popular and attractive to boys. Her busy imagination--she aspires to be a writer--leads to speculation on sex and death and "visions" of the killings. But, despite authorial teasers, the story loses momentum as the sequence of murders grows and Detective Torricelli fails to solve them, diminishing him in the eyes of everyone. With the time frame speeding up, the novel thins out, ending in a speedy, decades-later wrap-up that offers more tidiness than conviction. There's fluency and insight here but also a shortage of subtlety, with the book's underpinnings too visible through its skin.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

After Her

By Joyce Maynard

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Joyce Maynard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-225739-0

THE TOWN WHERE my sister and I grew up lay in the shadow of Mount
Tamalpais, not far north of San Francisco. The aging housing develop-
ment where we lived, on Morning Glory Court, sat just off an exit of Highway
101, eight miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Buses ran from where we lived
to San Francisco—the bridge marking the entrance to that other world, though
we also knew people came there to jump. But for us, the city might as well have
been the moon.
Our father had grown up in the city— North Beach, home of the real red
sauce, he told us. This was where the hippies had come for the Summer of Love
and where Janis Joplin had once walked the streets of the Haight, and cable cars
ran, and that crazy Lombard Street snaked past rows of pretty pastel Victorian
houses, and where another Patty—Hearst—had walked into a Hibernia Bank
one day, a few years back, carrying an M1 carbine as one of the Symbionese
Liberation Army.
Later, rock stars started buying houses on the other side of the highway
from where our house sat, but back in those days, it wasn't a fashionable place

8 Joyce Maynard
yet. The day would come when people built high walls around their property
and posted signs alerting would-be burglars to the existence of their security
systems. But those were still trusting times. Our yards flowed into one another,
free of hedges or fences, so girls like us could run from one end of the street to
the other without the soles of their Keds once touching asphalt. People moved
easily among their neighbors, and few locked their doors.
Our house, number 17, was the smallest on the street—two dark little bed-
rooms, a low-ceilinged living room, and a kitchen the previous owners had
decorated with green Formica and matching avocado-green appliances, none of
which could be counted on to function reliably. The living room was covered in
wood paneling, an effect meant to make the place seem cozy, perhaps, though
one that hadn't succeeded.
Our parents had bought the house in 1968, when I was two years old, shortly
after my sister's birth—the best they could manage on a policeman's salary. My
mother said Marin County was a good place for raising children, though our
father worked in the city at the time—meaning San Francisco. He was a beat
cop then, not yet a detective, and knowing him, he would have liked it that his
work took him a ways from home, over that red bridge he loved. It was probably
better that way, for a man like him at least, to be off on his own, with the three of
us tucked away in that little bungalow while he was off saving people.
These days, nobody could think of building low-income housing in a spot
like the one where our house was situated. The land that made up our develop-
ment would be reserved for six-thousand-square-foot mansions with swimming
pools and yards with outdoor kitchens and expensive patio furniture. There
would be three-car garages, and the cars in them would be of European design.
But whenever it was (the 1940s probably, after the war) that the houses
were constructed on Morning Glory Court and the neighboring streets (Blue-
bell, Honeysuckle, Daffodil, and my favorite—named for a contractor's wife
probably—Muriel Lane), a premium had not yet been placed on proximity to
open land and views. It was possible back then to have as little money as our
family did and still find yourself in a house that backed up on a few thousand

a f t e r h e r 9
acres of open space. So that whole mountain was our playground. Mine and
my sister's.
For the first five years of her life, Patty barely spoke, except to me. Not that
she couldn't talk. She knew words. She had no speech impediment. She had strong
opinions about a lot of things, in fact—not only dogs, and basketball, but also
(speaking now of her dislikes) foods that were red, other than marinara sauce,
clothes whose labels rubbed her neck, all dresses. She developed, early on, a
hearty sense of humor, particularly concerning anything to do with body parts
or bathroom activities. Burping never ceased to amuse her. A fart—particularly
coming from a well-dressed woman or a man in a suit—sent her right over the top.
But if someone asked her a question—and this included other children
besides me, her kindergarten teacher, and our own parents—she said nothing,
unless I was there, in which case she'd whisper her response in my ear, leaving it
to me to convey to the outside world—the world beyond the unit that consisted
of the two of us—what her answer might be. Young as I was, I didn't know for a
long time that other five-year-old girls had a lot to say. I didn't know this wasn't
how things went with everybody's little sister.
When we'd go to the bank with our mother, and the teller would ask what
flavor of lollipop she'd like, Patty whispered her choice in my ear and I would
speak it for her. Green. She ignored it when kids called her Bucktooth, because of
her overbite, and on our street, if a boy came up and wanted her toy, she'd hand
it to him rather than protest, though if any of these boys had teased me (about
my outgrown clothes, my inability to hit a ball in our occasional neighborhood
games), she would confront the offender (but silently) with one of our jujitsu
moves, learned from our father. Once, when a boy took the seat she'd saved for
me at a puppet show our mother had taken us to at the library, she jammed her
elbow in his stomach and kicked him for good measure before magnificently
sweeping me into the place next to her. All without words.
A person could have

Excerpted from After Her by Joyce Maynard. Copyright © 2013 Joyce Maynard. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of eight previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in California.

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After Her: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
RayHubble More than 1 year ago
Joyce Maynard is a very gifted writer. I thoroughly enjoyed After Her. The story is more than just a mystery - it also explores the depths of sisterly love. It is a strikingly good story. High marks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written book with suspense romance and the bond of sisters. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had never read any of her books before so I did not really know what to expect. Really loved reading about her relationships with her family,especially her sister. I thought the ending was rushed and would have enjoyed reading it more if the ending would have been more developed. I plan on reading another one of her books. I think Ive found a favorite author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
  I was a young girl during the1970's.  I especially enjoyed the realistic dialogue, and cultural references to music during that decade. I liked this story because it brought back memories of being a young girl growing up with her friends.  It also frightenly pointed out how crude the methods were for finding a serial killer in those times.  It made me extremely thankful for the technology  we have today. ( Not to mention the advances in mental health and medications ).  Overall it is an engaging, suspenceful,  and sad portrayal of those times.   
BarbieCR More than 1 year ago
This book has so many stories within stories and certainly a surprise ending. Books about serial killers are common in the genre, but this one keeps us emotionally tied to the heroine and her family as well as her entire life until the end. This book makes us all satisfied readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the begining of this book, and the relationship between the two sisters. Then it started to drag on... repeating the same story for years. And then a rushed ending... I don't understand, it seems like the ending was an afterthought?!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of her books I have read. Enjoyed. Great characterization.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok. Here goes! My first reviewJ I was really looking forward to reading this story! I have Joyce Maynard’s books on my library to-read list and I was really intrigued by this story, After Her. I even wrote the publisher when they forgot to send me my ARC… but … I was a little disappointed. I’ve been going back and forth about giving it a 2 or 3 star. There were something’s that I liked about the story and some that I did not: I really loved the relationship between the sisters. I thought it was very sweet and tender. Their everyday “adventures” were cute and fun to read about but… there were times I could not figure out where the author was going… For example, Rachel (the older sister) starts off by describing where they live, her dad’s dedication to his work, their parents’ relationship, her relationship with her sister and then the final part-the killings by “the Sunset Strangler”. Another aspect that really bothered me: I understood the relationship to the sisters (they were close and loved each other), the relationship with their father. Rachel loved and worshipped her father. However, I did not understand her relationship with her mother! She portrayed her mother as bitter and very removed from their world however, she thought it completely normal that their father would abandon his family for another woman and dedicate his career to tracking down the killer. She also seems to celebrate her father flirting with other women while her mother seems to fade like the furniture. I liked that the center of the story wasn’t the tracking of the killer but it really didn’t seem to fit in the story either… The story progresses from Patty and Rachel’s childhood into their adult years and then centers around the fathers obsession with finding the killer. So overall a good story but nothing I would re-read or recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love books written in the first person as this one is. The author transported me back to my childhood in the seventies. Fell in love with the characters, the story and the author. Couldn't put it down until I read the very last page!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the description, you might think this is a mystery. It's not. After her is 80% teenage whining. It isn't that 13 year old Rachel doesn't have anything to complain about with parents who have no business raising a hampster, it's just that you were promised a mystery and all you get is repetitive teenage angst. Not recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very hard to get excited about. It starts slow and never gets any better. The plot is a bit farfetched and not very engaging. Spend you money elsewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait to get into bed at night to read it and see what happened next
lynnski0723 More than 1 year ago
This was just an OK book for me. I did enjoy the pre-teen and teenage Rachel….she was probably my favorite part of the book. The serial killer mystery part was more of a side story while Rachel went through adolescence. Maybe that’s why this was just OK for me…..I was expecting the murder mystery to take more of a front seat in the storyline. Plus, once the final section of the book started, you knew exactly how it was going to end so there weren’t any surprises. Overall it was a good book, just not a favorite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lacetris0510 More than 1 year ago
The story moved forward very slowly, and I didn't feel a proper flow to it. I tried and couldn't get past the first 36 pages and had no desire to read this book any longer than I already had. I didn't feel any attachments to the characters and they weren't developed well. Also, for a story in the mystery genre, I didn't come across any conflict in the works. Maybe I was too early in the story to come across the conflict. I didn't feel engaged and captured by the book. Overall, I was very disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I spent much of the beginning of the book wondering where the story was going. The longer I read, the harder I found it to put the book down. Having never had a sister, I found the relationship between the sisters intriguing. As a parent, I cringed at narrator's parents letting the kids run amok so often but understood the depression that sent their mother retreating to her room and the fantasy area of books. Perhaps most intriguing to me was reading about the progression of the serial killer investigation and the affect it had on the family, especially the father. While the book could be slow at times, I enjoyed it a lot. I found the story hard to put down and loved the complexity of the relationships it presented.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of her books I've read. Very good.
chrn3211 More than 1 year ago
Always enjoy books by this author. Lots of family dynamics-bonds of sisters growing up, divorce, etc. Also a mystery spanning decades set in a time gone by.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read several books a month but have never read one that left me soo sad and depressed as this one has
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
VERY slow and boring. I struggled to finish.
helenstam More than 1 year ago
Based on the jacket details I thought this would be an exciting book. It wasn't! It was SO slow and repetitive fir many chapters. I got tired of reading about the daily, mundane, boring lives of the two sisters. It finally got interesting and began moving ahead during the last fourth of the book after the characters had grown up and moved ahead with their lives. When the author finally got to the end, it a moved fast and was interesting. I almost gave up, but wanted to find out if the two sisters and their detective father got redemption. I appreciated the bond and love the sisters ahead for each other and how they adored their father, but the author could've done a MUCH better job moving the story along faster and more interesting manner. I was disappointed !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago