Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: Aftermath by Clara Kensie

Publisher: Merit Press
Pub. Date: November 1st, 2016
Pages: 288


Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad's a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte's twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte to write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life--the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.

What Did I Think About the Story?

This might be one of the most heart-breaking yet touching and hopeful novels I've read in a good long while! From page one the reader is thrown into a crate in a locked attic room with Charlotte and from that moment on you feel every emotion - fright, anxiety, confusion, anger, and, yes, even happiness - with Charlotte and her family as they navigate through this new world created by her kidnapping. I did have to put it down from time to time as the subject matter can be hard to read (let's face it, it is every parent's worst nightmare!) but I always picked it back up and continued as the story is told with such sensitivity and compassion and is an important story to look at in order to be able to approach the subject matter with clarity and empathy.

One of the aspects I appreciated most about Aftermath was just how delicately the story was told. Given the horrid abuse, both psychologically and physically, Charlotte experienced the narrative could have easily become too graphic and salacious, but instead is presented to the reader in the words and views of a young girl who has experienced this abuse, as she might describe it. As I imagine would occur in someone who has experienced such atrocities at such a young age, we get to learn more about the long lasting and far-reaching after effects of the abuse, such as PTSD, guilt, gripping anxieties and even dissociation from herself in order to avoid dealing with what happened to her, then the details of the abuses themselves. I, for one, appreciate the subtlety displayed when discussing the details...you will know exactly what horrors happened to this poor girl without having to read anything too graphic.

Another aspect I really found well done was the mystery surrounding "The One Before", the girl who Charlotte's kidnapper used as a threat to keep her complacent and obedient. I found that adding this mystery and giving Charlotte this goal of finding out what happened to her and making sure the girl's family knew the truth, kept the story from becoming overly heavy with Charlotte's experiences and giving some hope and drive for the character as well as the reader.  This aspect really kept the story moving.

Aftermath is by no means an easy read. It digs right into that pit of fear we all have and exposes those nerves we would all rather keep buried. However, I think this is a really important book to read in order to understand and appreciate what someone in Charlotte's situation goes through and feels, and to help us understand the healing process and how to best interact with someone who is dealing with this sort of pain. It's hard to say you "enjoy" a book where the characters go through so much pain, but I am in awe of Clara Kensie's ability to present this story with such tenderness and I'm excited to see what stories she brings to us next.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I wasn't crazy about it at first as it's a little bit plain for my taste. However, after reading the story and spending a good amount of time looking at this cover, it really started growing on me. A big characteristic of Charlotte's time during captivity is her ability to separate her mind from the abuse being afflicted on her body, and in my mind this cover represents that escape. Whatever the intension, I think it's a good cover for what I would imagine is a hard story to put into pictures.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thank you to author Clara Kensie for providing me with a free copy of Aftermath in exchange for an honest review. You can find more information on Aftermath, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.

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