After Her by Joyce Maynard
William Morrow (ebook), 2013
It’s the summer of 1979, and a dry, hot, northern California school vacation stretches ahead for Rachel and her younger sister Patty-the daughters a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome and chronically unfaithful detective father who loves to make women happy, and the mother whose heart he broke.
Left to their own devices, the inseparable sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the life of the mysterious neighbour who moves in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that rises up behind their house.
When young women start showing up dead on the mountain, the girls’ father is charged with finding the man responsible, known as The Sunset Strangler. Seeing her father’s life slowly unravel when he fails to stop the murders, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet: setting herself up as bait to catch the killer, with consequences that will destroy her father’s career and alter the lives of everyone she loves.
It is not until thirty years later that Rachel, who has never given up hope of vindicating her father, finally smokes out the killer, bringing her back to the territory of her childhood, and uncovering a long-buried family secret.
A little over thirty years ago, on a June day just before sunset – alone on a mountain in Marin County, California – a man came toward me with a length of piano wire stretched between his hands, and the intention of ending my days.
I loved After Her, easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve never read Maynard before. If After Her is an example of her talent I’ll be reading a lot more.
After Her is beautifully written and engaging, the kind of book that once you start reading you get sucked deep into the world and characters, so deep, hours pass without you being aware of it. Maynard does a brilliant job of using a first person narrator. Rachel’s voice is engaging, almost hypnotic. After Her deals with some pretty dark subject matter but is never gory and violent. I hate books that use violence for shock tactics. After Her is leagues above similar novels in this respect. This novel made me cry several times but also touched me. I don’t have anything negative to say about this brilliant novel. I loved every word of it. The ending is also happy without being twee. After Her is one of the best books I’ve ever and I’d highly recommend it. Brilliant, sad, beautiful and unmissable.