Raw, Humorous, And Thought-Provoking

4 out of 5 stars

I’m not going to lie: the cover art really drew me in with this one and the synopsis sounded incredible: an explosion on a train, a sole survivor who can’t remember the day of the bombing and is now, one-year later, still searching for answers? The suspense was killing me before I even listened to the audio sample. When I saw (and subsequently heard) the narrators, I knew there was no going back–I love duel narrations and I’ve heard incredible things about Joe Hempel.

Life After: A Novel is an incredible book that tells a story of resilience and explores themes of grief, survivors’ guilt, and healing as the main character, Autumn Manning, struggles to move on following an explosion on a commuter train that left twenty-two others dead. As the sole survivor, Autumn is riddled with guilt and questions and cannot rest until she finds answers–and I don’t mean that as hyperbole. Autumn finds herself pacing graveyards at night as she battles insomnia and wonders why she lived while others perished. She has difficulty returning to work and faces an enormous desire to identify some purpose or meaning for her life, some reason why her life was spared while so many others were lost. Autumn’s search for answers brings her closer to the families of the victims, especially Paul and Reese Elliott, who each play significant roles in the development of this story and the protagonist’s desire for closure.

The characterization in this novel is phenomenal, with well-developed characters who have depth and personality. Each character has their own sense of humor, fears, and hopes for the future, almost coming to life through the joint efforts of a talented author and narrators. The dual narration was well-utilized in this piece and adds even more dimension to the story, as both Joe Hempel and Stacey Glemboski lend their voices to the characters, infusing this audiobook with a more profound sense of the wide range of emotions each character endured on their journey.

When I began listening to Life After, I was expecting a suspenseful novel and anticipated following along as the survivor, families of the victims, and members of law enforcement sought information, identified and apprehended a suspect or group of suspects, and brought those responsible to justice. Instead, I found an honest, poignant, portrayal of grief in the aftermath of tragedy and an exploration of the emotional and spiritual journey towards healing. Told from a variety of perspectives, including that of a survivor and those of a bereaved husband and daughter, this story demonstrates the far-reaching physical and psychological impacts of trauma and emphasizes the wide spectrum of emotions associated with loss, encompassing episodes of denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance.

Though this book was not what I had initially expected, it did not disappoint. It was a well-rounded story that was at times raw, humorous, and thought-provoking, told by two immensely talented narrators.

Book Description:

Audiobook: Life After by Katie Ganshert (Narrated by Joe Hempel & Stacey Glemboski)four-stars
Life After by Katie Ganshert
Narrator: Joe Hempel, Stacey Glemboski
Length: 10 hrs and 36 mins
Published by Self Published on February 16th 2018
Genres: Psychological Fiction
Pages: 354
Format: Audiobook
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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 12-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.

I received this book for free. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


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