The New York Times best-selling author of Labor Day and The Good Daughters returns with a haunting novel of sisterhood, sacrifice, and suspense.
I was always looking for excitement, until I found some....
Summer, 1979: A dry, hot Northern California school vacation stretches before Rachel and her younger sister, Patty - the daughters of a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective father and the mother whose heart he broke.
When we first meet her, Patty is 11 - a gangly kid who loves basketball and dogs and would do anything for her older sister, Rachel. Rachel is obsessed with making up stories and believes she possesses the gift of knowing what's in the minds of people around her. She has visions, whether she wants to or not. Left to their own devices, the sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the mysterious neighbor who moved in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that looms behind their house.
When young women start turning up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is put in charge of finding the murderer known as the "Sunset Strangler". Watching her father's life slowly unravel as months pass and more women are killed, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet...using herself as bait to catch the killer. But rather than cracking the case, the consequences of Rachel's actions will destroy her father's career and alter forever the lives of everyone she loves.
Thirty years later, still haunted by the belief that the killer remains at large, Rachel constructs a new strategy to smoke out the Sunset Strangler and vindicate her father - a plan that unexpectedly unearths a long-buried family secret.
Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case that terrorized Marin County, California, in the late 1970s, After Her is part thriller, part love story. Maynard has created a poignant, suspenseful, and painfully real family saga that traces a young girl's first explorations of sexuality, the loss of innocence, the bond shared by sisters, and the tender but damaged relationship between a girl and her father that endures even beyond the grave.
©2013 Joyce Maynard (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
I enjoyed listening to this book. I especially liked that the author was the reader, which means she read it to me just the way it was written in her head (and her voice was amazing to listen to for that many hours). I also respect how Joyce Maynard develops her characters so fully. I will likely think of Patty every time I see a little girl playing basketball, and Detective Toricelli every time an officer gives a press conference, and I will carry with me the sadness of true love unfinished and broken homes and dreams not fulfilled for awhile. And have nightmares about killers and piano wire and shoestrings and rusted out trucks. The only downside was that there was some repetition due to the robust character development efforts, which sometimes really slowed down the story just when I was getting excited and anxious to know what was going to happen next. I'd have to listen, listen more...wait for it...wait for it... Overall, a decent listen from an accomplished writer.
SET REVIEWS TO BE SORTED BY 'MOST RECENT' INSTEAD OF 'MOST HELPFUL'!
Fair disclosure: I've been a Joyce Maynard fan ever since reading her 1998 memoir At Home in the World. In that book, she broke her long silence regarding her relationship with celebrated Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger with excruciating honesty. She did so in a way no woman who's ever fallen victim to an insinuatingly charming but ultimately predatory older man who talked (or wrote) a good line would likely ever forget. I never forgot. So when, years later, I heard on the radio that Salinger had died, I immediately wrote to Ms. Maynard and told her the truth: that my first thought when I heard the news was, "I wonder how SHE is feeling today." Joyce was gracious in her immediate reply. I've been on her side ever since. I loved her one-of-a-kind novel Labor Day, though I still haven't seen the movie or listened to the audio version. I've pre-ordered her upcoming Under the Influence in both print and Audible versions. If it weren't for the prospect of potentially having to ask my stunned boss for time off from my job at a busy medical center to allow me to go write stories in the woods, I'd be working right this moment on my 650-word essay to win a week's stay at her Tiny House Writer's Retreat (contest deadline: March 17th, 2016; see author's website for details).
But this book, although competently written and extremely well-narrated by its author, does have several glaring flaws. First--and it pains me to say this--is a simple lack of adequate research. In this age of quick and easy internet searches, for example, there's no excuse for failing to verify the exact title of a song like CSNY's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," which is not called "Suite for Judy Blue Eyes." Or for failing to look up when it would be likely that the Carpenters were so popular that multiple characters within the same novel would cite them as their favorite recording artists. Or (and here I'm speaking from professional knowledge) for having a character develop vocal nodules so severe that "for the rest of her life, she was unable to speak above a whisper" after a one-time, 5-minute screaming event.
Secondly, there are plot inconsistencies. Why, for example, does a gainfully employed detective father who "loves his daughters more than anything" and who "notices everything" fail to notice that his children are so neglected they're living on sugar packets and saltines, and wearing too-small clothing and shoes with holes in them? Why is the phrase "child support" never mentioned?
But the thing I'd most like to ask the author is why, in this book, she chose to tell the story almost solely through exposition, with precious few actual scenes or dialogue. Ms. Maynard, who runs regular writing workshops, has presumably often advised her students to "Show, Don't Tell." Why does she not follow her own advice here? The novel would likely have been a solid A-plus if she had. As it is, however, as absorbing as I found the listen (it really is a page-turner, all criticism aside), it doesn't rise above a B. Sorry, Joyce! I'm still a devout fan, however, and will begin Under the Influence as soon as it is released, in a few days.
Listening to audiobooks is a guilty pleasure. I travel a lot so listen to about four per monthly. Biographies are a favorite.
Probably not even though I thought it was compelling. Since it's a murder mystery of sorts I wouldn't listen again because the suspense would be gone.
Excellent reader. One of my favorite books is her autobiography of her time with JD Salinger - don't think it's on audio, though. Such a sad story as she loves her sister and father so much - I think she did a great job of pushing this message through her voice and storytelling.
Would have given it five stars except the ending seemed a bit abrupt and too "tidy" - was hoping for something a bit more exciting or suspenseful, but overall great listen.
A wonderful sister story. These two California girls had what I would have died to have at their age – a tight sibling relationship, a fun dad who drove a hot car and open handed independence. Who would have known that with all that, they still didn’t have the world by a string?
Joyce Maynard writes a strong passionate novel that vividly describes sisters that barely survived the seventies. I gladly rode on their emotional rollercoaster with them through those crazy teenage thoughts, peer pressure and disappointing parents. Woven in is a very clever and captivating detective investigation that had this reader gasping aloud.
I greatly enjoyed After Her and highly recommend it. The summary is accurate. I could not put it away and was sneeking listens. When this book opened up and I realized that Joyce Maynard was narrating her own book I said out loud to myself, “Always a bad decision.” It wasn’t. By the end of this listen I was claiming it a perfect choice.
I'll be singing M M M MY Sharona for days.
Not just a serial killer murder mystery, but very much about family dynamics. I feel that girls/women might identify more with this book as it involves the relationship of two sisters and the relationship with their father.
I really liked the character development - I felt as if I knew and definitely cared about them. The relationship development between the two sisters was excellent.
Not really on the edge of the seat plot - not a super thriller. There are some books that you can actually leave the room for a couple of minutes and not really miss much. This book ISN'T one of those - there isn't a lot of meaningless filler and I wouldn't have wanted to leave the room without putting the book on pause.
I haven't listed to her books, but I will definitely look at the others she's written.
I'm glad I picked this book - hopefully you will too :-)
The reader (the author) and the family story. Joyce Maynard is a writer definitely worth the time.
I don't usually read or listen to books about the gruesome topic in this book but the family story is transformative and the reader (author) is excellent. I look forward to more of
Joyce Maynard's readings...and moreover her writing!!!
The flow of the story is moving....no giving away the surprises along the way.
This book kept me on the trail during many miles of walking!
I'm addicted to Audible. A new grandma I am responsible for my grandsons library, which reignited my interest in books.
Yes, it wasn't predictable and the end brought a strange awareness I hadn't realized had happened.
Perception is Reality
This book is more about the dysfunctional family of the adolescent narrator than the killer, although the killings provide a constant sense of dread and concern about the detective father's inability to nab the guy. If the work were a memoir, I could forgive the repetitive and uncomfortable exposition on her period and unenthusiastic sexual forays and the details of the unremarkable games she plays with her younger sister. But since it's fiction couldn't it be a little more interesting?
Maynard's craft is excellent; too bad the content is so dull and depressing.
This is a great touching story of the bond between two sisters but I was looking for a thriller and this was not that. This book was very slow.
Very enjoyable book. It is well read by the author herself. The young characters and their world are very well portrayed.
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