Review: After I’ve Gone

After I've GoneAfter I’ve Gone by Linda Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What an intriguing premise! Facebook posts from the future that just keep coming, day after day, week after week. It’s the modern-day equivalent of seeing a gypsy palm-reader, only this one, in the style of Zoltar from Big, seems to be coming true.

I like Jess’s doubts about the reality of what she’s seeing, her confusion over whether it’s her or the rest of the world who’s going crazy. On top of this confusion, Jess seems to willingly accept the gradual changes forced on her by her partner as he closes down her old way of life, makes her scared to speak in case she upsets his balance, and to consider herself inferior. In her case, it’s because she doesn’t believe the Facebook prophecies (because why would you?!), but it’s also a textbook example of exactly how mental abuse works, and how it escalates into physical abuse, and Green portrays it realistically and cringingly well.

As for the blurb: ‘what if the only way to save your child’s life was to sacrifice your own?’ I’ve met women who have left a man they love wholeheartedly, crying as they do so because it’s tearing them apart to do it, all for a future baby. A baby that doesn’t exist, and may never exist. So as incredible as Jess’s actions may be, I know it happens.

I also liked the true present tense of the story:

I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn to see Dad standing there, his eyes rimmed red, his cheeks hollowed out, hurt and pain oozing out of every pore.
‘I don’t want to leave her,’ I say.
‘I know,’ he replies. ‘Me neither.’

Even the middle of the story, slow enough to make me consider stopping, but with hints of the ending compelling me to continue, may only have reduced the story to four stars. Even though that slowness includes overwhelming detail, such as when we trace the exact movements of a background mug of hot chocolate: from the boiling of the milk, to the mug being put on the table, to the stirring of the hot chocolate, to the shaking of the mug as her father drinks his, to Jess picking hers up to leave, carrying it upstairs ‘careful not to slop the hot chocolate on the carpet’, to putting the mug down on the landing and then coming ‘back to the landing to get my hot chocolate’. It’s the complete opposite of old sitcoms where characters never close doors behind them or need to go to the toilet!

But the end knocked off another star. For a story that was always about how it was going to end, it lacked resolution. Unanswered questions like ‘where to next’ or ‘I wonder how that plays out’ are delicious and insightful, but unfulfilled promises of a punchy twist (that’s not a spoiler, it’s from the praise on the opening page) are not. And Green feels the same way, if her first Book Club Question is anything to go by: the very key to the story, its very reason for existence and cause for all change in all characters, was ignored from halfway through the story.

All in all, an interesting read. Maybe a second book can pick up where this one left off: Jess’s timeline gets more future Facebook messages? Maybe Sadie gets them instead?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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