I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book from the author, who I love talking with and have had the opportunity to do so twice on the Cocktail Hour podcast. I tell you this because I want to be upfront with the fact that I got a free copy of Aftermath to read for the review AND that I genuinely like the author. I also want you to know that I have no issues with calling bullshit if it’s there to be called and have done so while talking with Ms. McMan on the show. More than once. Just wanted to get any thoughts of sugar-coating out of the way before you read any further. Ok. Ready? Here we go!
Aftermath picks up over a year after Jericho ends. That’s right, just in case you missed it, Aftermath is a sequel to Jericho, Ann’s first published book. All of our favorite characters are back, Maddie and Syd, David and Michael, Roma Jean, Celine, and, of course, little Henry. There are a few new characters introduced, too. My favorite is Charlie Davis. Ok, moving on with the review…
Jericho is hit with a massive tornado which destroys much of the town and while everyone is trying to put their lives back together, Maddie and Syd are hit with a few extra issues. Syd’s soon to be ex-husband has decided at the last minute that he wants to contest the grounds for divorce – his infidelities – and Henry’s father is coming home from Afghanistan. But Maddie and Syd aren’t the only ones in town dealing with changes and revelations. Roma Jean is realizing some things about herself, David and Michael each have some new interests and business ventures, and Henry is dreaming of what life will be like when his daddy comes to live with him at Maddie and Syd’s.
As with all of Ms. McMan’s work, there’s more humor and witty banter than you can shake one of Nadine’s chicken legs at. There are a few things that really stand out to me, the first being the foreword written by David Jenkins. Yes, David from the book provides us with a summary of what’s already happened so we’re not lost if we haven’t read Jericho in a while. And I hadn’t so it was helpful. It was also funny and I loved the way that Ann, through David, pokes fun at the weaker plot points from the first book. Another stand out moment, humor-wise, is David explaining fan fiction to Maddie and comparing her and Syd to Cagney and Lacey. Maddie, objecting to that pairing, suggests Xena and Gabrielle and then, a few minutes later, a more current version with Rizzoli and Isles. I know several of my friends who will be happy to know that the term “Rizzles” wasn’t used anywhere in the book.
There was a much more serious side to Aftermath, too. I’m not ashamed to admit that there’s a scene near the end of the book that forced a few tears to run down my cheeks. Most of the heavy emotions revolve around the imminent departure of Henry from their home but Syd and Maddie are dealing with a lot of stress and turmoil. They’re not the only ones, of course, but for me they’re the focal point of the book, and I think they will be for many readers.
Here’s the bottom line, I truly enjoyed Aftermath. I believe I enjoyed it more than Jericho and I very much enjoyed that book. There are some wonderfully funny images and exchanges but there are also some very serious moments that made me sit back and stop reading for a few minutes; just sit back and think about what was going on and about how I would respond in a similar situation. The scenes describing the tornado ripping through the county – particularly the one involving Maddie and Henry – were intense and very well done.
I don’t really have any bullshit to call but I will say this: I love Ann’s more serious themes and conversations. Yes, I love fun, quick-witted humor and Ann does that in a way few others can. But I also love it when characters struggle and hurt and deal with life and I think Ann does that very well, too. We see it here in Aftermath but sometimes the humor seems to diminish the importance or duration, maybe, of the emotion the characters are experiencing or the seriousness of the situation. It lets us, and the characters, off the hook too soon, I think. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well enough but I hope you get the gist of what I’m trying to get across. It could be that I’m an angst junkie and just am not happy until someone cries. Regardless, Aftermath is a great read and I recommend it.
Now, go pick up a copy of Aftermath. If you enjoyed any of Ann McMan’s previous work, you’ll love this one. And if you don’t, I’m sure Ann can arrange for you to receive one of Peggy’s lemon chess pies to make up for it.
If you haven’t read all of Ann’s books, which I highly recommend you do, you can click here to see Ann’s Amazon author page.