After the Leaves Fall

After the Leaves Fall

3.8 69
by Nicole Baart
     
 

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Julia DeSmit can't wait for her life to begin. After her mother leaves when Julia is nine years old, she's raised by an unassuming, gentle father and a saintly, matriarchal grandmother until her father dies just as Julia is becoming a young adult.
On the cusp of womanhood, Julia feels jaded by her circumstances and longs for a new identity. College seems like

Overview

Julia DeSmit can't wait for her life to begin. After her mother leaves when Julia is nine years old, she's raised by an unassuming, gentle father and a saintly, matriarchal grandmother until her father dies just as Julia is becoming a young adult.
On the cusp of womanhood, Julia feels jaded by her circumstances and longs for a new identity. College seems like the perfect place to start over. But when Julia makes a mistake that will change her life forever, she returns to her grandmother's farm, defeated and convinced of her own worthlessness. Only through the gentle prodding of her loving grandmother does Julia begin to accept the imprint her childhood has left on her life and look for hope in a loving God who longs to make all things new. Tyndale House Publishers

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her promising debut novel, Baart writes compellingly about a young girl's struggle with loss, love, identity and faith. Julia Bakker knows what loss is. Her mother abandoned her, her beloved father died, and her childhood love has gone to college and found another. As a teen, she lives with her saintly grandmother, who urges her to go to church camp, but Julia finds only "quick answers and thrilling conversions" there. Disillusioned, Julia decides it is up to her, not anyone else-"even some impossible, far-flung God"-to reinvent herself. "The truth was, I didn't know who I was, and I was afraid of being defined by who I wasn't. By what I didn't have.... By remembering with predictable, cyclic accuracy all I had lost." After chronicling her early years, the story follows Julia as she enrolls in college to study engineering and become someone who is "too smart to attach, too independent to want to, and so secure as to be untouchable." Soon, Julia is repeating her mother's mistakes. The love of her rock-solid Christian grandmother and a newfound (and not completely well-explained) reliance on God help fortify her for the difficult path ahead. Sparkling prose makes this new novel a welcome addition to inspirational fiction. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Julia DeSmit's mother left when she was a child, and then her father died when she was a young adult. It's about time something good happened to her, so she decides to reinvent her empty life when she receives a college scholarship. Her new world, however, is not exactly what she had planned. First novelist Baart lives in Iowa.


—Tamara Butler

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781414316222
Publisher:
Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
10/01/2007
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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Read an Excerpt

after the Leaves fall


By nicole baart

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Nicole Baart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-1622-2


Chapter One

waiting

Waiting is a complicated longing.

I lost my father when I was fifteen, and I've been waiting ever since.

He was buried on a rainy day in October, and I remember the sound of the raindrops on the lid of the sleek black casket and how it seemed like music to me. The pastor was doing his best to make sorrowful an occasion that seemed anything but-the leaves on the trees above us were burnt amber, the consoling sky around us was velvety gray, and the rain was singing softly. I didn't feel sad. I felt expectant.

My father had been in pain. There was so much pain. It had seeped out of his limbs and crept hauntingly into my blood and bones. My grandmother and I carried pain from his bed every time we walked away from a failed attempt at getting him to eat. We steeled ourselves against the ache that slowly invaded when we sat by his side and held his cool hand, his fingers dry and fragile in ours as if this small part of him were already gone. Even walking the few steps past the living room, where he lay entombed in an impossibly narrow hospital bed, to the dining room, which was the only way into the kitchen, was a staggeringexperience. I'd pause imperceptibly in the hallway, gather myself, and walk with purpose and more than adequate speed until I was wrapped in the warmth of the kitchen, where the oven was baking something that he would never eat.

Sometimes he cried, but the tears just gathered in the corners of his eyes and pooled there like so much dark water lost among the black-brown of his gaze. I wasn't always sure if he was even aware of his crying, but those tears called out of their own accord, and the reverberation would echo through the house until it drowned out all else. I felt I would go deaf from it. Stop. Oh, please, God, make it stop.

When it stopped it was as if the world was filled with air again. I breathed again. Great gasping lungfuls of air that left me dizzy and panting. And weeping. The night after Dad died, Grandma found me in the grove behind the old chicken coop, gulping that glorious, rich air and sobbing without making the tiniest sound. She knelt beside me in her housecoat, letting the damp grass soak her arthritic knees, and pounded me on the back until all that good air took and waiting my tears could be heard as well as seen. I'm dying too, I thought when I heard the keen that could only be coming from my own mouth. What but death could possibly feel like this?

But I wasn't even close to dying. Fresh air was new life that filled my veins. Grief was so quickly and yet so incompletely replaced by something that felt like relief that I careened from guilt to repose and never became fully settled with anything I felt.

After he was gone, I would find myself in the darkness of the living room in the middle of the night, standing where his bed had filled the space in front of the picture window. The October sky would be cold and clear, and from the farmhouse window the stars would shimmer like something otherworldly. Thank You, God, for taking him. I would breathe the half prayer over and over, and for those minutes in the newly quiet house, I would feel something close to peace. Then the very next morning the lack of his presence across the table would choke me until my tongue was thick and threatening in my mouth, and I promised God my soul if only I could have one more day with Dad.

It was in this new living that waiting became so complicated.

I began to exist in a tension between wanting and not wanting-waiting for something I couldn't even pin down in my most naked and honest moments. Waiting for a balance where I neither ached nor forgot, regretted nor accepted. Waiting for my heart to be light again yet fearing the implications of that same lightness. I suppose I waited for peace-an end to my own personal warfare.

The imbalance struck me for the first time immediately after I threw a fistful of sodden dirt on the box in the ground that contained his body. I was torn between laughter and tears. Feeling that something big and incomprehensible had just happened, Grandma and I stood hand in hand until the graveyard was empty and the rain had all but ceased to fall. Her lips moved faintly, and I knew she was whispering prayers for me. I couldn't join her-I had forgotten how; the ability to pray had slipped out of my soul like the dirt had tumbled from my fingers. I wasn't angry at God or anything-that would have been far too clichéd. He just seemed irrelevant.

When Grandma spoke, it was unexpected. "You know what my favorite time of year is?"

I blinked for the first time in minutes and looked up at her. "Huh?"

She continued without looking down at me. "I love it best when the leaves fall."

I didn't know what to say.

"Lots of people like autumn because the leaves turn such pretty colors." Grandma smiled at this as if she had a secret, something sweet and unforeseen that she was going to share with me. I watched the familiar, wrinkled profile soften. "I like it when all those leaves fall because it's such a small thing that means so very much." Pulling her hand out of mine, she turned to me and tilted my face toward her own. "Do you know what I mean?"

I didn't.

She searched my face. "There's this subtle sadness-winter is coming, and it's going to be hard and cold. And there's a feeling of good-bye. But there's also ..." She searched for the right word. "Suspense? Maybe hope? Because it's not over; everything is just waiting for spring. Do you know what I mean?"

Grandma sounded expectant, and I smiled at her because I loved her better than anyone else in the world now that Dad was gone. "I think so," I said quietly.

"You can see more clearly when it's all stripped bare. You can see that everything gets to be new." Grandma smiled at me with every hope for our future shining in her eyes. "That's the good part."

A gust of wind from the southwest shot through the trees and showered us with cold water and soggy leaves that were anything but hopeful.

I've been waiting a long time for the good part.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from after the Leaves fall by nicole baart Copyright © 2007 by Nicole Baart. Excerpted by permission.
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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After the Leaves Fall 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Love_My_Nook_Color More than 1 year ago
I struggled through the first chapter but sailed through the rest i really liked rhis book and plan to read the other two in the series. One thing i wish i understood better is why julia had little self confideence. I understood her character to be attractive and smart. I guess the ideas was that her mothers leaving left a tremendous hole in her heart. I dont think there was too much of a religious component to the story. Meaning it didnt sound preachy. Ithiught it was integral to telling the story well and the author did a great job with this.
harstan More than 1 year ago
When Julia Bakker was nine years old, her mom left her and her dad no big deal as she had deserted them mentally long before she finally packed her bags. When she was fifteen, her father died after a long illness slowly debilitated him. Julia is left with her grandmother on the family farm. A year later Julia falls in love with Thomas, but he has a girlfriend at college. Soon after that Julia leaves for college, but though she plans to reinvent herself, she makes bad decisions that force her to return home where her loving grandma offers hope.------------ AFTER THE LEAVES FALL is a fascinating spiritual coming of age tale. Julia is a deep character who learns life¿s lessons the hard way as she ran off to college to escape her unhappiness only to go full circle as she learns how supportive and loving her grandma is. Although her emotional change appears abrupt and intended more for a sequel than a climax, young adult fans will appreciate this deep teen character study.----------- Harriet Klausner
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LadyJai More than 1 year ago
I heard this on one of my talk shows I listen to, said his wife and staff members couldn't put it down and it was offered free on Amazon Kindle on Valentine's Day. I had no idea what this book was about. But I wanted to read it anyway. Once I started, I was sucked in. The main character was real and down to earth. Her mom left, her dad died, and she went to live with her grandmother on a farm in some small town. Her life turned upside down and semi-bitter, her faith became questionable as she went on through her life trying to find her way. Despite the many differences between her life and mine, I felt I could connect with her on a deeper level. I saw myself in her thoughts many times. Her uncomfortable-ness with others, her feelings of invisibleness, her falter of faith, her independence, and her lack of direction and where she fit in -- I've seen it all within myself growing up. I really enjoyed reading about Julia's growth and her "one step forward, two steps back" dance with life. Because, isn't that how life operates? And who really is your one constant in life? It wasn't her mother, her father, her grandmother and it surely wasn't Thomas. Julia finally realizes who her constant is at the end. Julia's story is not complete at the end of the book. Be warned and anticipate purchasing her sequel. :)