By Rachel Seiffert
Completed January 6, 2012
I first became acquainted with Rachel Seiffert when I read her first book, The Dark Room. I was moved by her gentle narrative style, and I was eager to read her second book, Afterwards. Thankfully, Orange January gave me the opportunity to be immersed – once again – in Seiffert’s writing.
Afterwards is the story of Alice, her grandfather and her boyfriend, Joseph. At the heart of the story, though, is the effect of post-traumatic stress on veterans. Alice’s grandfather flew a bomber in Kenya, dropping bombs on dense forests where faceless people and animals were killed. Joseph was a British soldier who served in North Ireland and carried a deep guilt about his service. While Alice’s grandfather had his wife (now deceased) to talk to, Joseph couldn’t utter a word – not to Alice or anyone in his family. His silence was deafening, and Alice had to decide on living with the silence or living without Joseph.
I admire Seiffert for keeping the story real, including the ending, and touching on this important subject. The trauma of war on soldiers can’t be ignored, and Seiffert does an admirable job showing that, especially with Joseph. The guilt was eating him alive, turning him into a different man. It was sad to watch his transformation as the book progressed.
Afterwards won’t be for everyone. You have to become comfortable with Seiffert’s writing style and presentation. Similar to Helen Humphreys, Seiffert packs a zillion punches into each word. Sparse but powerful, Afterwards is a story I won’t soon forget. ( )