It could have been me.
Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.
A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.
Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.
In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Katie Ganshert is the author of several novels and works of short fiction, including the Christy Award-winner A Broken Kind of Beautiful, the Carol Award-winner The Art of Losing Yourself, and No One Ever Asked. Katie lives in eastern Iowa with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
ROMANS 11:3 4
P R O L O G U E
We rarely know when death will come.
Some are warned in sickness—like the track of dirt that runs around the edge of a baseball field, cautioning outfielders that they are running out of room. The end is near. But others—many others—meet death without any warning at all, in an unforeseen moment that wrenches consciousness in two, separating the living from the dead.
That’s how it would come on this particular evening for twenty-two individuals.
A darkened sky released sheets of overzealous, unwelcome flakes into the air. The wind caught them up and blew them sideways. The same wind tore strands of hair from the woman’s ponytail and whipped them about like flickering candle flames. She clutched a box tightly to her chest, the contents rattling, as she hurried up the cement steps.
With her chin burrowed deep into her scarf and eyes lowered, the woman didn’t see the man as she reached the platform. She didn’t see him stare at the train. She didn’t see him as he exhaled a cloudy breath. And she didn’t see him when he spun around.
The two collided, as lives sometimes do.
The woman tottered and fell, the box upending. She landed hard on the snow-covered cement, auburn hair spilling about her face.
The man moved to her, pulled her up. “Are you okay?” “I-I think so.”
He scrambled to collect the scattered contents—a handful of business cards, a spiral-bound notebook, a balled-up T-shirt, an opened bag of Tootsie Pops, and a picture frame.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“No, it was my fault. I wasn’t looking. I didn’t want to . . .” Her words swirled off into the wind. She tucked her hair behind her ear, her attention moving to the broken picture frame he held in his hand.
He shook pieces of glass into the snow, then returned the framed photo to the box and handed it over. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine.” And yet she was unable to hide the wince that came with her words.
The railcar waited behind him, its doors open.
She hugged the box to her chest and stepped forward, before they closed. Before she had to wait for the next train to come along.
Dry air washed over her face and neck. The doors slid shut. The rail- car released its brakes. A voice distorted with static sounded over the inter- com as the train lurched forward. She steadied herself against a nearby pole and stared out the window. The man stood beneath the awning, watching the train slide past as snow and wind swirled in a frantic dance across the sky.
Circles of pain radiated from her backside. She brushed a patch of white clinging to her coat and glanced down the railcar. Her attention caught on a lady with hair like her own, sitting close by, clutching an expensive-looking handbag while she dabbed her cheeks with a crumpled pink tissue.
As if sensing the attention, the lady’s watery eyes rose up to meet the woman’s.
Flushing, she turned away. The car wasn’t too full, so she slid onto an empty seat a couple rows ahead, setting the box beside her.
Cold stuck to her skin. Her teeth chattered. She yearned for a hot cup of tea. A long soak in a warm bath. Something that might chase away the coldness that had seeped inside her bones long before she stepped outside.
She removed the five-by-seven picture frame from the box and flicked a sliver of glass from the photograph when someone tapped her shoulder.
It was a man.
He sat behind her wearing a green-mesh John Deere hat with a straight bill, like he’d never bothered to break it in. His back was hunched with age. “Crazy weather this evening.”
“Last time we got this much snow this late in the year, I had more hair up here.” He took off his cap and with a chuckle, rubbed the top of his shiny brown head. “They say when all’s said and done, we could get up to a foot.”
The woman’s lips pinched in the corners—a polite but discouraging smile.
Maybe if she had known that this would be the old man’s last conversation, she would have done a better job. Maybe if she had known, she would have been more attentive. At the very least, she could have shown a glimmer of kindness.
But she didn’t know. None of them did.
Not the girl with the pixie haircut and the pair of tattooed butterflies rising on the nape of her neck. Not the Latino boy slumped down in his seat, earbuds jammed inside his ears. Not the harassed-looking mother trying to corral a wild young child. Not the businessman tapping the keys on his opened laptop. Not the crying wisp of a lady with the crumpled pink tissue. Not the old man who smelled of analgesic cream and bacon and prattled on about snowstorms in March.
Not the woman with the box, whose phone began buzzing. She gave the gentleman an apologetic look and pulled the phone out of her pocket. A text message lit the screen:
R u alive?
A short huff.
She slipped off her mother’s ring and stared at the familiar design. If she hadn’t done that—if she would have just given it a twist instead of re- moving it altogether—maybe some things would have turned out differently. But she did take it off. She turned it over in her hand, clasped it inside her palm. And then she tapped out a text with trembling thumbs. It was a message that would never be sent. One that would be lost with all the other things that were lost on that day. Halfway through her typed reply, a second ticked from one to zero.
An explosion of heat blasted through the air.
Stars burst like kaleidoscopes behind the woman’s eyes, and life as she knew it disappeared completely.
O N E
A woman screamed.
Impossible heat reached out heavy fingers and dug into her flesh, pulling her into darkness. Charred gloves circled her wrists and dragged her from the wreckage as flames swallowed the world.
Autumn Manning jolted awake.
Sweat dripped down her back as she shoved away the sounds, kicking them off like an unwanted blanket. She pushed at the sheets covering her legs and tore at her face, clawing at tubes that were no longer there. Tubes that had been removed months and months ago.
It scratched up her chest, heaving her upright in bed.
It was just a nightmare. Fiery wreckage didn’t engulf her. There was no hospital or beeping monitors. She was in her apartment bedroom, where all was quiet and still and safe.
The clock on her nightstand read 3:36 a.m.—an hour most people didn’t care to know. But 3:00 a.m. and Autumn had become well acquainted. At 3:00, sleep turned into a will-o’-the-wisp—teasing her as it danced forever out of reach.
It was better not to chase it at all.
She swung her legs around and shoved her feet into a pair of slippers, slid her arms into the robe hanging on one of her bedposts and shuffled past the closet that made her family worry.
Ten minutes later, Autumn was curled up in an armchair with a hot cup of tea, flipping through options on Netflix, trying to ignore the ghosts that called to her from down the hall. She had promised her sister that she would stop, that she would find a way to let all of this go.
But the dead were loudest at night.
Ribbons of steam curled up toward her chin. Autumn selected an episode of Gilmore Girls and turned her attention to the jigsaw puzzle scattered across the coffee table. The more things she could distract herself with, the better.
Television, tea, puzzle.
This one was called “Forest Gnome” and was extra difficult, given that most of the pieces were the same shade of barky brown. Mindlessly, she picked at a cuticle as she searched for a piece of the gnome’s hat.
Pick, pick, pick until her skin stung.
She stuck her thumb in her mouth and sucked, then pulled it free and watched as red beaded up into a droplet of blood. If she didn’t cover it, she would continue picking—an unflattering habit she developed as a girl.
“Stop picking, my love,” her mother would say, peeking at her in the rearview mirror of their Buick LeSabre. “Your nails look dreadful.”
Autumn headed to the bathroom, where she wrapped her thumb in a lime-green Band-Aid and stared at her reflection in the mirror. A straight scar slashed across her temple. A feathery one peppered her right jawline like white stubble—so vague now a person had to squint to see it. There was another on her shoulder where she’d had surgery—this scar more serious looking than the others. But that was it. The only outward sign that she’d survived anything at all.
Three faint scars, where skin had been savagely torn but stretched and bound together again.
Gilmore Girls banter filtered down the hallway.
Autumn knew she should return to her chair and her tea and work on the puzzle while Taylor Doose tried bringing the citizens of Stars Hollow to order. When the episode ended, she could clean out her refrigerator— scrub it with baking soda and vinegar until she found a way to remove the mysterious sour smell that came and went in whiffs without any rhyme or reason. When that was through, she could lace up her shoes and go on an early-morning run.
But temptation was hard to resist at three in the morning.
She was impossibly drawn to the things she promised to throw away.
With resignation, she grabbed a pair of scissors, the copy of the Tribune featuring the articles she read before bed, and the binder from the top shelf of the hall closet. She pressed her back against the wall and slid to the floor, where she cut out the newest headline.
Tragedy on the Tracks: One Year Later
The alliteration grated. It had always grated, causing a grimace when- ever she saw or read it.
The commission board in charge of erecting a memorial had worked with a local artist to design a fountain. They’d settled on a large steel phoenix, taking flight from the water. A symbol of hope. Beauty from ashes. A symbol Autumn had yet to see unfold in real life. Even the beauty of justice eluded her.
The bomber, Benjamin Havel, was still on the loose.
The ground surrounding the fountain was embedded with twenty- two red bricks, each one inscribed with a name. Nearby a plaque explained all that it represented. It was a plaque that would remain largely unread, and eventually, the fountain would be nothing more than a wet trash can for unwanted pennies and stale gum.
Was Chad right? Had she turned cynical?
She finished cutting out the article, trying not to think about the voice mail from the chairman of the board, inviting her to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. Or her sister Claire’s disbelief when Autumn told her she wouldn’t be going.
“You’re really not going?” she’d asked.
“Trust me,” Autumn had said. “Those families don’t want me there.” Why would they? To them, she was salt in a wound. A bitter re- minder. A cruel question mark. Why did that woman survive when my husband (wife, dad, mom, son, daughter, friend) didn’t? What’s so special about her?
Autumn didn’t want to see the questions that haunted her reflected in wet eyes. And she refused to be a mascot. If she went, she would be a dis- traction. A spectacle. The focal point. The memorial wasn’t about her. It was about them—the ones who hadn’t survived.
She didn’t need to cut a ribbon to pay her respects. She did that every day.
While the city slept, she paid them over and over again.
Her attention wandered to the binder in her lap. She paged past the stack of obituaries—all of which had been written and published while she was still unconscious. By the time she opened her eyes, the dead were al- ready buried. Autumn had to Google their names to read their stories, and gather old newspapers from libraries for physical, tangible records. To her family’s dismay, she turned into a morbid kid collecting a set of tragic baseball cards, determined to gather her favorite players. Only instead of a bonus stick of bubblegum with each find, she got a knife to the gut.
She turned past each one of them until she reached the letters—all from one address. They began arriving a few days after she woke up and the media descended.
At first, the letters just confused her.
Eventually it became clear. Autumn understood what it was like when your mind fixated on something. When it gnawed and gnawed like a dog with a bone. That must be it. For reasons she thought she understood, she had become that bone.
She got up from her spot in the hallway. She didn’t think as she powered up her Mac, and she didn’t think as she logged onto a fake Facebook account, and she didn’t think as she typed names and hashtags into the search bar. Always the same ones. It had become a tick. A compulsion. Like picking at her cuticles. She had to do it, even though it never made her feel any better. Not when her searches produced something new and not when she discovered accounts had finally been deleted. No matter what Autumn found, all of it ended the same way—her, sitting there, nursing the wounds all the picking left behind, not a Band-Aid in sight.
Three hundred and sixty-five days.
One whole year since the people inside the binder had ceased living. Twelve months with the same question as her constant, vigilant companion. The same question her two-year old niece had begun asking repeatedly a couple of weeks ago.
Why? Why? Why?
With a deep breath, Autumn picked up a nearby pencil and snagged a piece of paper and tried—for the hundredth time—to write a letter back.
Excerpted from "Life After"
Copyright © 2017 Katie Ganshert.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was very different from my usual choice of reading selections. Emotionally gripping, it dealt with life after a tragedy focusing on the families of those who died as well as, in this case, a lone survivor. Ganshert deals earnestly and effectively with the clashes between faith and fear and the resiliency that faith can give. Autumn is the lone survivor of a train explosion. She is obsessed with all those who died and can't move forward in life. Her biggest question is, of course "Why me?" She could very have looked at it as "Why not me?" When the pre-teen daughter of one of those who died connects with Autumn, they both begin seeking answers by deciding to interview each of the families of the victims and putting together a You-Tube video. But they soon find out that sometimes there are secrets hidden behind those doors that may need to be in the open so healing can begin. A wonderful read that will stay in my memories for a long time. **I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Publishing through NetGalley. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.
Autumn Manning was the only survivor of a horrific tragedy, named Tragedy on the Tracks. Her memory of events prior to the explosion are lost. She feels so much guilt-for being the only person to survive. Her life is forever changed. Her family all worries about her. She now has an ex-fiance. She questions God. How could a good good God allow this? Reece, a twelve year old girl whose mother lost her life that day in that tragedy, is writing letters to Autumn. As a result, Autumn meets her father, Paul and her little brother, Tate. This story had me feeling so much empathy for the family. There are also secrets there, which I will not reveal to those who have yet to read the book. The one year anniversary of the tragedy has just occurred, and Reece very much wants a tribute done. Autumn interviews someone from the family of each of the deceased. Their stories of their loved one is so amazing! Paul continues to put Autumn off on interviewing him about his wife. Reece is determined to talk, on camera, about her mother. Very well written story. I was given a free ecopy to read by the publisher WaterBrook Multnomah and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Life After is one of the most thought-provoking fiction novels I have read recently. This novel focuses on life as we know it and examines the whys of life we all question. I loved how the main character Autumn examines these questions. Many times I have had the same questions on why someone experiences whatever circumstance they are going through at the time and why someone else seems to have it all. After going through her life-changing event, the reader is able to see how Autumn learns to cope with real life and what events change her perspective. Every day we all are faced with choices. We can choose to live our lives to glorify God in all circumstances or we can choose to stay stuck in our circumstances. Ms. Ganshert discusses one of my favorite verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” This short verse is profound in its meaning that is applicable to anyone’s life. During any of our circumstances, but especially the difficult ones, God is there to walk through those trials with us. One of my favorite quotes from the book is when she discusses a verse in First Corinthians and states, “Life is hard, and almost always confusing. But one day we’ll see clearly. One day it’ll all make sense.” I highly recommend this book! It was absolutely fantastic. I read it in one sitting it was so great! ***I was given a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review. This is my honest opinion. Even though I received this copy free, I have purchased her books before.
My first book by this author. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to see what came next. A friend recommended this book to me - and I'm so glad she did. I will definitely be getting this author's other books
Such a Gripping Story Oh wow! This story has touched my heart I'm having a hard time right now, seeing through the tears in my eyes. There were so many emotions this book brought out: anger, fear, hurt, shock, deep sadness and grief, disbelief, hopelessness and then hope, humor, joy and through it all God's steadfast love and acceptance! The author Katie Ganshert her to is truly a gifted writer. Her words evoke so much feeling and imagery, the story just flows along. Before you know it, the whole day has gone by and you can't put the book done. I believe this book and the story will stay with me long after I've read it. WOW! It's a powerful story! I highly highly recommended picking this book up and reading it. You're life will be changed!
This book deals with the long-reaching aftermath of an event that forever marks and changes two separate lives. Even with its hard subjects, though, it is written with a flowing style that is easy to read (and the characters! I just adored Paul’s kids, Reese and Tate). It is profound in its simultaneous complexity and simplicity. I can easily recommend it to anyone, because everyone can relate: we’ve all asked “Why? Why do horrible, evil things happen in this world? Where is the hope, the divine plan?” Through the separate perspectives of Autumn and Paul, a bigger and intersecting picture of LIFE with all its joy, loss, and potential for happiness is revealed –and life can be a wonderfully unexpected masterpiece.
Life After was absolutely compelling! I loved the way the author opened up the story with the prologue. It gave the reader a peek into the events of the fateful day involving the fictional event that the story was woven around. It also provided some information that the main character of the story no longer remembered due to the trauma they experienced. It was a very interesting way to start the story. Even though this book deals with a tragedy and some very serious subject matter, I felt very hopeful throughout the novel. The author did a great job of slowly revealing important pieces of information relevant to the characters in the book. I loved the the emotional and spiritual growth that the main characters gained by the end of the story. The one thing I would have loved to have seen in this book would have been an epilogue of perhaps a year later. But even without an epilogue, this was a fascinating novel.
The day that a train explosion in Chicago killed 22 people, Autumn Manning was aboard. She was the only survivor. After many months of healing, she is haunted by it all and carries what some would call “survivor’s guilt.” At first, it had been thought that she had died because they had her confused with another woman, Vivien Elliott. Now, Autumn is receiving letters from Vivien’s 12-year-old daughter, Reece. Reece’s father, Paul, is not happy about their relationship. Paul is a psychologist and has a younger son as well. He is working hard to handle the loss of his wife and to help his children with their grief. Autumn has started working at a church that Paul and his family attend so they see one another often. Reece wants to put together a tribute to her mother and all of the other people who perished on that train. Soon, Autumn and others are involved in this endeavor. Autumn finds it helpful with the depression she has carried from the accident. It is decided that there will be a video made of interviews of the victims’ families and pictures will be hung in the church where Autumn works. As the interviews begin, we learn about the lives of these people and the ways that their families are coping. This is an interesting book that brings out some surprises the reader is not expecting.
Life happens. That is the thread running through this fast-paced romance by Christy Award-Winning Katie Ganshert. I can attest to the fact that life happens as I sit down to write this review (three months late). May I whine just a bit? I started reading the book and was well on my way to finishing it when I slipped on the ice and broke my dominant wrist. So much for typing up the review when I finished reading the book. Then, as does for all ministry types like me, life happened some more. Things got busy at church, things got busy with the busy family, and then a major funeral happened. And so, here I am, three months later, and I have a little more thought into the book than I normally do. (Excuses over, now on to the review.) Not being familiar with Ganshert’s work, and desirous to see how my review would turn out, I checked out a copy of an Amish Christmas romance that was written with the contribution of Ganshert and others (Amish Christmas North Star, WaterBrook, 2015). What I found there (in Katie’s story from the book) was a moving story with well-developed, likable characters to push the story along. Consequently, I began to look forward with a little less trepidation to examining the latest book from this author unknown to me, in a genre normally not read by me. Set in Chicago, the story starts off with a BANG when, well, life happens. On an icy, snowy day, a commuter train derails destroying lives and homes all over the city. Only one passenger survived. The book follows her story, as Autumn Manning comes to grips with her role in the “Tragedy on the Tracks” as the event is labeled in the media. While all her friends and family are trying to figure out why she is not happy, does not feel fortunate, that she didn’t die in the accident, Autumn is filled with regret, remorse, and guilt spurred on by the continually lingering question Why? All the while struggling with a lingering amnesia that her doctors and psychiatrists are hoping to help her move past. In ensuing pages, Autumn finds her life entangled with the lives of the families of those who died in the tragedy, including Paul Elliot and his daughters. Originally thinking that his wife is the lone survivor, Elliot arrives at the hospital to find a stranger in his wife’s bed. Ganshert develops the main characters well, but some of the supporting parts are played by people we just don’t want to like, even when we want to like them. Perhaps it is the role they play (Autumn’s former boyfriend who shows back up to help with a memorial that Autumn finds herself not only entangled in but in charge of, for instance—you’ll need to read the book to get the whole story, otherwise I’d have to spoiler alert you). The story has everything that a romance reader is looking for: likable characters, plot twists, semi-steamy love scenes, emotional conflict, and perfect resolution (the right guy gets the right girl and all is well in the end). For someone who rarely reads romances, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll give Life After 4 out of 5 reading glasses. —Benjamin Potter August 31, 2012 [Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Publishing Group for this review.]
This. Book. Unbelieving poignant, it'll rip your heart to shreds and put it back together in one jagged but beautiful scar. It'll rock your world, make you rethink life, treasure the preciousness of it and hug tighter those you love. A beauty for ashes story that will leave you breathless in one heartbeat and downright ugly crying in the next. Making you question everything like the characters within it's pages, reliving the horror, trying to piece the puzzle together, trying to understand the unexplainable. It'll have you clinging closer to a God who weeps with those who weep, bringing comfort when life makes no sense, and who doesn't walk away when the hard questions rage at Him. It'll absorb you in it's pages, thoroughly engaging your senses, and make you feel like the world would end if you missed one minute of this book. The one line that struck a cord with me: “I guess that's what life is, though, isn't it? A whole bunch of little moments that don't seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back...”She shook her head. “ I don't know. They become the most profoundly beautiful things.” That's how I would sum this book up “profoundly beautiful”! * I received a complimentary copy from the publisher on the authors behalf. No favorable review was required and all opinions expressed here are strictly my own. *
It was real. The chaos of family get-togethers. A parent's terror of having a missing child. The heartache of betrayal. The recurring nightmares. The butterflies of a new attraction. The joy of playing outside in the rain. Katie Ganshert did an excellent job of crafting this novel, and especially of getting inside the heads of the main characters. As I got to know Autumn, I found out how messed up she was, yet I liked her and had compassion for her, which made the joy even greater as she was able to heal and grow throughout the course of this book. This is a book to pick up when you really want to dig in to a good book, and I highly recommend it for men and women who enjoy contemporary fiction. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Every American thirty years of age or older should be able to relate to Life After, as they recall life after 9/11/2001. Many younger Americans may also be able to relate to life after a number of subsequent national tragedies or life after any personal tragedy. Unfortunately, life means sometimes searching for life after. Fortunately, we have a Lord and Savior who weeps with us and who leads us forward. One year later, Autumn Manning, the sole survivor of a train bombing that took the lives of twenty-two others in Chicago, has become obsessed with the lives of those left behind as well as the lives cut short. Her family is concerned that she may never find her way out of all that plagues her, but they cannot understand the guilt that is mounting in Autumn’s core. While her family tries their own intervention, they could never imagine the form in which help would arrive. Katie Ganshert tackles the difficult themes of evil that brings pain and loss to people who have done nothing to bring them upon themselves and coping with false, undeserved guilt. She does so with understanding, compassion, and by helping readers gain a more accurate view of God and a more accurate view of themselves. Thank you, Waterbrook and NetGalley for providing me a copy of Life After in exchange for my honest opinion, I highly recommend this book.
This novel was stunning in its depth and exploration of survivor's guilt. From devastation and tragedy to healing and hope, Katie Ganshert penned a novel that is sure to stick with me for a long time to come. And ensure that I will be reading everything she's written, past and future! A thought-provoking story of a life that is stolen too soon and Autumn Manning's "life after" the tragedy. How can she live life when everyone else on the train died in a senseless act of violence?
Oh. My. Goodness. Life After was one of the best novels I have ever read. It grabbed me from the very first sentence. Katie Ganshert starts with an amazingly deep premise that she fully explores, and follows through with deep character development and a page turning plot that never lets up. I cared deeply for Autumn and Paul and Tate and Reese ~ I wanted to find out what happened in their lives. I enjoyed how the mystery around the life of Paul Elliott's marriage/dead-wife unfolded. And how the author gradually pieced together the hours and days that survivor Autumn Manning could not remember. But the neat thing was that when those mysteries were resolved, the book wrapped up quite nicely, with the reader still wondering "what if" about so many little things in life in general.
Wow. There are so many things I thought about while I read this book. Surprisingly, I didn't cry (which I tend to do with books dealing with grief), but felt very introspective. I think that's due to Autumn's detached observations, her coping mechanisms, and the deep questions she and other characters wrestled with. The book started a bit slow for me as things began to unfold and be revealed, but the pace steadily picked up and I appreciated the time I was able to take with each level of Autumn's reemergence into a functioning life. The part that hit home to me personally was when Paul was reflecting on how his children had grown. It made me think of my relationship with my own 10 year old daughter and how I can preserve our bond and sense of unity that seems to come so naturally when they are younger. The book explores many angles of the timeless question of why bad things happen, or why God allows bad things to happen. The thoughts and processes of the characters were natural and realistic, and I loved the profound conclusions they came to as they interacted with each other and learned from the insights shared. Autumn's developing relationship with the Elliot family brought light and hope to her, them, and to the overall story. I especially enjoyed 6 year old Tate and his mannerisms- he practically jumped off the page! I didn't expect a romance to come out of the circumstances, so it was a pleasant surprise, especially when I wasn't sure if I should be rooting for Seth, Autumn's former fiancee, or Paul, who was dealing with more baggage than he could handle. The extended family of Autumn and Paul play important roles that illustrate the variety of family situations, the imperfections, and the love and loyalty we share in spite of it. The way the author wove so many aspects and themes together is beautiful and I highly recommend this novel! (I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)
Life After by Katie Ganshert Shortly after reading this story, my husband and I drove through Chicago as we were enroute to Virginia (never do it during rush hour!). I envisioned Autumn and the other characters in this story as they lived in this very city. And when I actually saw one of the El Trains, I vividly pictured what happened to the victims in Life After. So, this story actually came to life for me as I traveled through Chicago. We wanted to do some sightseeing but rush-hour nixed that right away! This story was emotional and gripping. Autumn had a lot of emotional wounds from the train explosion – who wouldn’t after being the lone survivor? Finally, Autumn takes steps in order to heal. Paul and his two children are victims from the explosion. Why? Because they lost a mother and wife that day. Tate is the youngest and he doesn’t seem like he doesn’t totally understand what really happened to his mother. Paul and Reese on the hand have the issues. Reese reaches out to Autumn. Through this, Paul and Autumn meet. As the months linger, Paul and Autumn find healing and something more within themselves. The reason I gave this story three stars, was because I didn’t approve of some of the things that were mentioned in the book. For example, Harry Potter. I do not approve of it and I see it as witchcraft, no matter what. It has no place in any Christian book. There were also other things I did not approve of that affected my rating. I honestly did not want to continue reading the book, but out of respect to the author and publisher, I kept my commitment to finish the book. Disclosure statement: I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
So many of us get wrapped up in the headlines of tragedy and forget the complex feelings and healing that needs to take place for the people involved, both the ones left behind by loved ones who have gone and those who survive. Life After explores the survivors guilt of Autumn, the lone survivor of a horrific bombing on a commuter train. You follow Autumn as she struggles to grasp at life again, struggles to embrace what was taken from the others, struggles to decide what happens next and then to begin her life again. Ganshert does an excellent job of giving us snapshots into the lives of several victims' families, the public pain and the private grief. This is an excellent read. *I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Jump on this band wagon!!! I have never read Katie Ganshert before, but I am a hooked fan now. Life After is a gripping book of heartache, grief, tragedy, hope, love and grace. Her illustrative use of words puts you right into the heart of Chicago. You can see, hear, and feel the busy city streets. She makes you want to visit the city and the characters from the book. Mostly, I love how she balances faith and fiction and leaves you wanting more. After this book, I will be looking for more of her books to read.
I give this book 4 stars! This is the first book I have read by Katie Ganshert. I really enjoyed this book. The book captured my attention from the first pages. I could not put this book down. I highly recommend this book. The main character Autumn is the only survivor in a horrific train bombing. She struggles with why she was the only survivor and why so many others had to die. Autumn is such a realistic character. This book will hold a special place in your heart and will stay with you long after you finish the book. *I received an advanced reader's copy of this book. No positive review was required. My opinion is my own.
This was my first book by Katie Ganshert, but it will not be my last. I really enjoyed her writing style. She knows how to tell a good story. One of the things I absolutely loved about Life After is how realistic and unpredictable the story was. There really is a suspense element to this book, simply because the reader is kept in the dark about most of the characters' secrets. I was so eager to know what would happen next at times that I read some parts extremely fast. I'm usually the type of reader to read slowly and savour each word, but it was impossible to do with this book. The suspense was killing me! There were so many plots twists. I would have read the whole book in one sitting if time had allowed. I also LOVED the characters in Life After, especially Tate. He's the sweetest boy! I would definitely recommend this book. It does not disappoint. I was one of the lucky readers to receive a copy of this book from the publisher prior to its publication date. This did not affect my review in any way.
Honestly, I have been waiting awhile to write a review. I read the book slower than I needed to...because I simply did not want to leave the book. I wanted to dwell with the characters for a long time, just sorta move in. I hesitated in writing a review because, all I keep thinking to tell you is just, "Read it." I will suggest this book to all my friends. I love it. I am not even using the words lightly. The characters are so honest and genuine and relate-able. The emotions explored are complex and beautiful and difficult. The book is so surprisingly and simply emotionally honest. And, truly...READ IT. You will love it.
Nutshell: Main character, Autumn Manning boarded a train heading home when minutes in to the ride, an explosion changed the course of her life forever. Being the only survivor of the purposeful blast, Autumn finds herself floundering through life, engrossed in the lives of those who died and spinning into a downward cycle that gets darker day after day. This is a story about a woman's survival and how one little motherless girl reaches out to Autumn and changes the trajectory they both are on. Pro's: What an impactful, powerful story of seeing life beyond one's own nose and misery. How other's are affected in spite of tragedy. How tragedy can grow something beautiful. How stories can impact one person's life. A beautiful heart wrenching, agonizing story that blossoms in to hope. The words. The story line. Feeling like you are standing on the sidelines a part of these characters. Well written and one of the best books I have read. Con's: Not really any! It was slightly difficult to grasp all of Autumn's family members. But other than that, a fantastic read! Recommendation: I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of a heavier read. It is not light and fluffy, but a pretty emotionally full book. Blogging for Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.
What a book! I was not happy every time I had to put it down and do something else. This one takes a while to process after you finish it. Raw, true, and unflinching, author Katie Ganshert in no way skirts the issues that can came with tragedy. Yet through it all is a glimmer of hope. Hope that life can begin again. Hope that, as the writer says, the phoenix will rise from the ashes. Written clearly and succinctly, you’ll see how life can change in a moment, and you will look at your life differently. Moving and riveting, you won’t be sorry you read Life After. I received an advance copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
BEAUTIFUL STORY!! This is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read! It so eloquently details how you can be living your everyday life and in a split second EVERYTHING changes. This is the story of Autumn Manning, an ordinary young woman who becomes the Sole Survivor of the L-train bombing in Chicago. Her story is painful, pitiful, challenging, hurtful, heartbreaking, inspiring, life-changing, enduring and heartwarming. YES! That much emotion in one character in one book! But there's so much more!! Autumn interviews the families of the 22 victim's families and gets to know them and all about their lives. In doing so, she begins to find the healing she has so desperately needed. She develops a special relationship with one family in particular and the future is bright for them. This story is so touching as it explores the depths of the human soul and the where is God when bad things happen? My favorite quote of the book is this by Ina May Huett who lost her husband Lazarus. She said this as she was speaking at the Memorial Service for the Victims. She said, "Before Jesus performed His big fancy miracle, He met those two sisters in the middle of their pain, and He wept along side 'em. That's our God." Ina May gave her finger a wag. "We worship a God who might not give us the miracle, but He will always give us the comfort. And that, my friends, is the God I see here, alive and active, in this sanctuary today." I received a complimentary copy from the author. The honest opinion and review are my own and were not required.
I have enjoyed quite a few of Katie's books, and this one is no exception. She is an amazing author. I guess one of the things I seem to like the most, is that her books are realistic, easy to read, simple, yet so deep. It's like, you are just reading through them, and then you get to the end and you go, Ah... that makes so much sense, is it over already? I want more! You feel like you are part of the story, living in the midst of the characters and sharing their lives, their pain, their happiness. In Life After, a lone survivor of a train accident, Autumn, is struggling with survivors guilt. She is so entrenched that her life has become more of an obsession with the dead, visiting the graveyard, keeping a scrap book of articles on the dead. Her big break happens when a young girl, whose mother died in the train crash, shows up at her door. Although this girl has been sending letters for months, Autumn has chosen to keep her distance. From there the story unfolds, and Autumn begins a new journey of hope and healing. She chooses life, not just for herself, but her goal is to help others remember the lives of their loved ones in a special way. This book is moving and emotional. You may laugh, you may cry, but you will feel like you know these people. They will become a part of you, and even when the book has ended, their memory will carry on in your heart. This is what happens when Katie writes. I remember characters from several books I've read of hers. I know they are just fictional.... but occasionally, I wonder... what happened to them. I received this book free courtesy of Blogging for Books to read. A positive review was not required. All opinions are my own.