Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Life After" by Katie Ganshert

The last time I read a Katie Ganshert novel (not counting her YA dystopian series written as K.E. Ganshert), I closed the book with tears streaming down my face. While I wanted to read Life After, I wasn't sure I was emotionally ready for it. Turns out, while Life After is deep and emotional, it didn't wreck me in the way that A Broken Kind of Beautiful did. Yet it also left me with much to consider about God and His goodness.

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.

I think I can safely say that Life After is unlike any other book I've read. It has this feeling of realism to it ... It's not a happy book by any stretch of the imagination, though it does have a satisfying ending.

Had the name Katie Ganshert not been attached to it, I doubt I would have picked up Life After. The description makes it sound like a good book, but also a heavy book, and I prefer my books to be light and happy. But I know from experience that Ganshert's books, while emotional, are also truth-filled and cathartic. Life After completely lived up to my expectations in this regard.

Life After is really a story of moving on—beyond guilt, grief, and regret—and of coming to realize that God is faithful and He is good, no matter what.

A year after being the lone survivor of a train bombing, Autumn is dealing with survivor's guilt. An unexpected connection with Reese Elliott, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the victims, ends up giving Autumn something besides her guilt to focus on, and she begins clawing her way back to life. I loved Autumn's interactions with the victims' loved ones as the novel progressed, as each person's reaction to death was unique, and their experiences helped Autumn put her own into perspective.

This story feels so real—the characters are nuanced and relatable, and I wanted to keep learning more about them.  The whole novel is packed with so many secrets and twists that I couldn't help but devour it as I tried to unpack it all.

I feel like I've really only scratched the surface of how much I appreciated Life After. I could tell you everything that I loved (and I loved a good many things), but you really need to experience it as I did, unspoiled with no preconceived notions of what will happen. The book's description is really all you need to know. Trust me, you want to read Life After! It's easily the best book I've read so far this year. 5 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Ganshert's An October Bride (5 stars), The Perfect Arrangement (5 stars), A Broken Kind of Beautiful (5 stars), and Wildflowers from Winter (5 stars).

Katie Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes all the things. She's won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about Katie and these things she writes at her website www.katieganshert.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. For me, this is an amazing story. Worth every one of its stars. While 'Beautiful' is probably more emotional with its characters, this one is, overall, more emotional storytelling. Or I thought so. Either way, Katie's books continue to get better with each novel. :)

    1. Oh, I completely agree, Rissi! Beautiful really struck a chord with me because I strongly identified with one of the characters ... I was quite happy to not be so emotionally wrecked by Life After :-) I do think that, start to finish, this is the strongest novel Katie's written ... at least of those I've read so far!


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