After the Fall [NOOK Book]


“That’s the thing about falling.  It doesn’t go on indefinitely, and it rarely ends well . . . ”
In her page-turning fiction debut, neuropsychologist Kylie Ladd delivers a searing portrait of two marriages united and betrayed by friendship.
“I had been married three years when I fell in love,” begins Kate, a firecracker of a woman who thought she’d found ...
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After the Fall

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“That’s the thing about falling.  It doesn’t go on indefinitely, and it rarely ends well . . . ”
In her page-turning fiction debut, neuropsychologist Kylie Ladd delivers a searing portrait of two marriages united and betrayed by friendship.
“I had been married three years when I fell in love,” begins Kate, a firecracker of a woman who thought she’d found the yin to her yang in Cary, her sensible and adoring husband.  For their friend Luke—a charismatic copywriter who loves women and attention in equal measure, and preferably together—life has been more than sweet beside Cressida, the dutiful pediatric oncologist who stole his heart.  But when a whimsical flirtation between Kate and Luke turns into something far more dangerous, the foursome will be irrevocably intertwined by more than just their shared history. 
After the Fall follows the origin and fallout of the most passionate of affairs through the eyes of all four characters, unveiling the misunderstandings and unspoken needs that lie beneath our search for love and connection.  The narrative moves effortlessly between past and present, painting a nostalgic picture of the two marriages at their most idealistic—the exact moment when like turned to love—and at their most volatile.  Thanks to the boundless compassion with which Ladd draws her characters, one can’t help but root for them as they wrestle between newfound desire and remembrances of time past, all the while spinning toward an inevitable conclusion.
Steeped in psychological insight and raw emotion, After the Fall is an unsettling novel of the many ways we love and hurt each other.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Neuropsychologist Ladd’s flat debut is narrated by four Australians who make three pairs: Cary and Kate, and Luke and Cressida, two married couples—and Kate and Luke, who fall headlong into an affair that could have big consequences. Cary is a chivalrous doctor who desperately wants children, while his impetuous wife, Kate, an anthropologist, is the lusty life of every party. Then there’s Luke, the dashing ad man everyone falls in love with, and Cressida, his beautiful pediatrician wife, who is more dedicated to her patients than to her personal life. Short, snappy chapters alternate between the voices of these characters, building the story of the two marriages and the infidelity that dismantles them. Ladd can turn a phrase and spin a metaphor, but the characters are too thin to sustain sympathy, and little is done to find a new angle on the familiar setup of desire and adultery. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
Ladd, a neuropsychologist who makes her home in Australia, takes on adultery and its consequences in this accomplished debut novel about a successful circle of young Melbourne residents and the collapse of their relationships. Kate, an anthropologist with a zest for living fearlessly, meets slightly stoic Cary at the racetrack. The two share an impromptu picnic in the rain, but then Cary, a genetic researcher, confuses Kate by not turning into an overeager suitor. Eventually Kate takes the initiative and the two marry. Meanwhile, another couple-the gorgeous Cressida and her golden boy, Luke-also make it down the aisle. Unlike Kate, Cress is a virgin when Luke, the ladies' man, enters the picture. He pursues Cress, a pediatric oncologist in a family brimming with doctors, because she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. With their stunning blond looks, the couple turns heads wherever they go. One of the heads that Luke turns is Kate's; she and Cary, who works at the same hospital as Cress, become friends with Luke and Cress, but at a wedding Luke and Kate share a very public kiss that ignites a passion strong enough to consume all four. Meanwhile, Cress mourns the decline of a young patient, while Cary pushes Kate for a child. The book is told from multiple perspectives, in lush, often beautiful prose. Ladd employs one too many similes, but that's a minor flaw in a promising work. Vivid language makes each page a joy to read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385532822
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 861,149
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

KYLIE LADD’s writings have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and the Sydney Morning Herald, among others. She holds a Ph.D. in neuropsychology and lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children. After the Fall is her first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

I had been married three years when I fell in love. Fell, tripped and landed right in the middle of it. Oh, I already loved my husband, of course, but this was different. That had been a decision; this was out of my control, an impulse as difficult to resist as gravity. Mad love, crazy love, drop, sink, stumble. The kind of love where every little thing is a sign, a portent: the song on the radio, his Christian name staring up at you from a magazine you're flicking through, your horoscope in the paper. Normally I don't even believe in horoscopes, for God's sake. Love without holes or patches or compromises, soft as an easy chair, a many-splendored thing.
At first I enjoyed it. A fall is a surrender; you can't help it, you didn't plan it. Maybe you could have been more careful, but it's too late for that now--you might as well enjoy the swoop and the speed, the unnerving sensation of having your feet higher than your head.
I fell in love with a man who had hair like silk. A man who said my name as if he were taking communion, who looked me in the eye while we made love, and even again afterward. He fell too, and there we were, clutching each other as the hard earth hurtled up to meet us.
That's the thing about falling. It doesn't go on indefinitely, and it rarely ends well . . . plunge, plummet, pain. Even if you get straight back up, even when you regain your footing, after the fall nothing is ever quite the same.
Okay, it was the sex. Or, okay, it was love. When Cress insisted we see a counselor I knew the question was bound to arise: Why did I do it? Why had I betrayed her? I couldn't work out which answer might be better received, so I turned to my best friend, Tim, for advice. Given that Cress was also going to be at the session I had to be careful. Did I say it was love, and appeal to her romantic side? Cress is the most sentimental soul I have ever met, and I had a hunch, ridiculous as it may sound, that pleading love or one of its lesser forms--a crush, infatuation--would be a better defense than straight lust. Then again, given that she was such a romantic, maybe even mentioning the word risked alienating her completely--love, I suppose, being the sort of thing reserved for one's wife. The alternative was to plump for sex, but would that leave Cress forever paranoid about the hoops she herself wasn't jumping through in the boudoir?
Either way I was doomed, though I was hoping Tim could come up with something plausible. Predictably, though, he just looked shocked. If Cress is the most sentimental person I have ever met, Tim is the most naive. Or the most moral--I'm not quite sure what the difference is. "Just tell the truth," he sputtered, looking moist and uncomfortable, checking his watch when he thought I wasn't looking. "How much longer do you want the lies to go on?"
Well, indefinitely would have been nice. For seven months I was the happiest man in the world. Who wouldn't have been? Two beautiful women whose faces lit up when they saw me, one always available if the other was elsewhere. I'll admit it was good for the ego, but that was just the fringe benefit, never the aim. And for that reason I can't feel guilty about it: nothing was planned or premeditated. I feel guilty enough about the conventional things, of course--guilty as hell for hurting Cress, even some residual Catholic remorse for breaking my vows. Up till then I'd believed in them. But I never felt guilty for loving them both. Parents claim that they love all their children equally, and no one doubts this. Why can't it be the same for adults? Maybe I'm rationalizing what I did, but in a lot of ways I think everything that happened would have been far more objectionable if I had stopped loving Cress, transferred my affection rather than shared it.
In any event, Tim was no help, and I ended up telling the counselor that the whole thing had just happened. That sounds pretty lame for someone in advertising. I'm meant to be good at making words do as I please, but I could tell no one was fooled. Not Cress, sitting sniffing on one side of the office, eyes skittering away every time I glanced in her direction; not the counselor, mouth narrowing skeptically as she heard me out. Goaded by their disbelief, I abandoned any thought of appeasement and went on the attack. Forget love or sex . . . I blamed loneliness, frustration, all those long nights that Cress worked, then was too tired to talk, never mind touch, when she finally did get home. Bad move. My wife spent the session in tears and I wondered if I shouldn't have just gone with lust and been damned.
I don't know. It was love, and it was sex, and it was fate and karma and reincarnation too. It was an epiphany and an epitaph. There, I'm making the words work now.
I don't think about it much. No, really. What's there to think about? It happened; it's over; I'll survive. What's the point in talking about it? It's not going to change what took place. I mean, I made my decision too, and now I'm going to live with it--all this blathering around in circles isn't my style.
I grew up in the country. Sometimes I think about moving back there, though I know there's little work. What appeals, though, is that out there you just do. You don't debate, or discuss, or try to weigh up every angle. . . . There isn't time for it, and it's never helpful. You come off your horse or your bike; you get up, brush yourself down and get on with it. No point wondering if you'll ever ride again--it's not an option; you have to. It might hurt, but bruises heal. Bones too. Even hearts.
For ages after I found out I tormented myself, wondering when it had started. Not the sex, which was too much even to contemplate. Not even the kissing, but the thought, the desire, the possibility. They'd always clicked; that much was evident to anyone with half an eye, but it's still a fair stretch from flirting to fucking, particularly when you're both married to other people. That's crude, and I apologize. Luke would be shocked to hear such language from his virgin bride.
No, what I want to know is if such a thing can truly just happen, as Luke so ingenuously told the counselor. Surely people don't go around just falling into bed with others on a whim? Not, as I seem to be reiterating, if they are otherwise legally wed. Did they discuss it? Or did they just know, the way I sometimes know when I see a patient for the first time that he or she is going to die? It's something about their faces: something blurred or unfinished. There's no sense of the adult version lurking underneath, maybe because they will never grow old. I'm invariably right, though I wish I weren't. I'd rather not know at all, in case I then don't try hard enough with the ones I'm sure won't make it. Self-fulfilling prophecies frighten me.
When I first found out about that kiss, though, I wasn't frightened. Angry, yes, but I never felt threatened. It didn't even occur to me that this might spell danger. That probably sounds silly, but I knew my husband and the games he played. Luke is a flirt: a man who loves women and attention in equal measure, and preferably together. We had some stormy scenes over it when we were courting. It never did sit easily with me, but after a while it's amazing how one can adjust. Then too, I guess once I knew he loved me I could see it for the sport it was. It even validated me in some crazy way: he would spend all night at parties charming these beautiful women, succeed, and yet still leave with me. And after we did leave he would be so aroused by the thrill of the chase that we would rarely make it home without pulling over into some darkened street to heave and tussle on the backseat of the car . . . my hair caught in static cling on the seat belt, my toes pressed hard against the misted windows. Those nights were the grace notes of my marriage. I truly didn't care where the desire had come from as long as it was spent on me. And it was, wholeheartedly.
Luke is a golden boy, one of those the gods have smiled upon. Everything comes easily to him, or at least it appears to. Head prefect at school, valedictorian at university, a cushy job full of long liquid lunches and long-legged girls. Even his birth was blessed: after three daughters his parents were longing for a boy, and hey, presto, that was exactly what they got. Golden too in his coloring. A classical gold: hair the color of a halo in a Renaissance painting, eyes the blue of the Madonna's robe. Rich, vibrant colors. He isn't particularly tall or well built, but he stands out in a crowd.
Actually, I'm blond myself. I'm also good-looking enough, I suppose--I had to be to have attracted his attention in the first place. But my eyes are brown, my skin is fairer and my hair much lighter, a pale imitation of his, as if it has been washed once too often or left out on the line too long. When we stood next to each other it was his hair, his features the eye was always drawn to, as if he'd sucked all the color out of mine. My parents thought we looked like brother and sister, and my friends used to tease me about the beautiful blond babies we would make. I wanted children, and God knows I thought about them too. But try as I might I could never quite see them, their faces as hazy as the faces of the patients I knew would die.
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Interviews & Essays

Kylie Ladd on After the Fall

Whenever I meet someone new and they ask me about my occupation I always reply that I'm a psychologist. It's true. I'm a clinical neuropsychologist, to be precise, with a Ph.D. in the field and fifteen years' experience working in both the public and private sectors. What I fail to mention-mostly because I still can't quite believe that it's true, and I'm stupidly afraid that saying it out loud will make it disappear-is that I'm also a writer.

I never planned to study psychology. At the time it simply seemed like a good compromise between the medical degree my parents wanted me to do and the arts degree I was keener on, but now I realise what a great fit it was. I have always been fascinated by people, and more specifically how we become who we are and why we make the choices we do. I'm also- as is true for most writers-rather a voyeur. Psychology gave me the tools to observe others; writing gives me the reason to do so.

Psychology has also helped me understand something I think every writer needs to grasp: that "story" is a fluid concept, depending wholly on perspective. In the clinic where I work, part of my role is to take a history from both the client and a member of his or her family. Though I have been doing so for many years, the process still has the power to surprise, given how differently the same events can be perceived and experienced by different people. It seems there is always some fresh way for us to love or hate, to accommodate or alienate each other; there are at least two sides to every story. Listening to my patients and their families gave me the idea for the narrative structure of After The Fall, where four main characters take turns at telling their side of a shared story.

Now that both my children are in school, I write three days a week and practice as a psychologist for two-but the distinction is often blurred. When I write, I am using the resources that psychology has given me; when I am seeing a client I am simultaneously alert for what I can learn from them about being human. In both cases, I am listening for story-the stories that explain and define us all. --Kylie Ladd

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions for AFTER THE FALL
Steeped in psychological insight and raw emotion, Kylie Ladd’s After the Fall is an unsettling novel of the many ways we love and hurt each other. The following questions are intended to enhance your reading experience and to generate lively discussion among the members of your book group.

1. After the Fall is largely narrated by four characters: Kate, Cary, Cressida, and Luke. Why do you think the author chose this method rather than just one narrator? Does it alter your view of events? Do you think each of the narrators is equally reliable or believable?

2. Kate says, “I work with artefacts, with relics. I know in my heart that there’s little that stays shiny forever, even with effort.” In contrast, Cary remarks, “Familiarity breeds content; love plateaus but is none the less for that.” Which of these attitudes do you most identify with? And how do you think Kate and Cary’s occupations have influenced their views?

3. The word ‘fall’ is used in various contexts throughout the book. Why do you think we use the term ‘fall’ to denote both the beginning of something (“falling in love”) but also the end (leukemia patient Emma’s “fall toward death”)?

4. Which of the four main characters do you most identify with? Which do you find the most sympathetic? Why?

5. A number of weddings take place in the course of After The Fall: Sarah and Rick’s, Cary and Kate’s, Luke and Cressida’s, Dan and Jane’s (where Luke and Kate first kiss), Tim and Joan’s. How has Kate’s attitude to marriage changed from the first of these to the last? Cressida’s? And what do you think of Kate’s pronouncement that no one should be allowed to marry before the age of thirty?

6. Was Kate right to have given Luke an ultimatum? What do you think would have happened if she hadn’t?

7. Kate says, “Situations don’t arise; you create them. Luke must have told me he loved me a thousand times in our seven months together, must have risked his marriage at least half as many to meet me or call or make contact somehow. Why, then, choose that marriage?” Why do you think Luke made the decision he did? And why is it that Luke’s proposed compromise—to stay with their spouses but continue to see each other—satisfies him, but not Kate?

8. Cary and Cressida respond very differently to the discovery of their respective spouse’s infidelity: Cary decides to put it behind them and move on, while Cress is unable to forgive or forget, and moves out. Why do you think each reacts the way they do? Do you believe a marriage can survive infidelity?

9. Cressida gives up her fellowship to care for her father at the behest of her sisters. In what other ways has she been influenced by her family in the choices she makes? Do you think that has changed by the end of the novel?

10. When Kate and Cary first sleep together in Venice, Cary says, “In the end it was her decision. It had to be, didn’t it? Kate had always set the agenda.” Do you find Cary’s relative passivity (and later his determination to forgive and forget) touching or annoying?

11. Were you satisfied with the ending of After The Fall? Did it finish the way you expected it to? Do you believe that the characters will be able to put the events of the novel behind them?

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2013

    Good book, easy read, and it kept my attention. It's a book that

    Good book, easy read, and it kept my attention. It's a book that makes you stop and think and especially the ending.  
    You keep turning the pages because you wonder what will happen next. 

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    After the Fall

    This book was about 2 married couples and their affair that also affected the relationships with their friends. Things were wonderful for awhile until they were caught. Each chapter went by fast and you will look forward to the next one! I guess some people can recover from a "fall" and others can't.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2010

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    Posted April 22, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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