Monday, June 4, 2012

"After All" Review

After All, the final book in the Hanover Falls series by Deborah Raney, was sent to me by Howard Books as an advanced review copy. You can read my reviews of the first two books in this series as well: Almost Forever & Forever After.

After All continues the story of the lives of the people who were affected by the fire at the Hanover Falls, Missouri, homeless shelter the previous year.

Susan Marlowe lost her husband of twenty-four years in the shelter fire, and in the eighteen months since, she has slowly started to put the pieces of her life back together. Working almost nonstop at the new Grove Street homeless shelter and worrying about her grown sons keeps her mind and her heart occupied. Over the last few months, there is something about her late husband David that keeps bothering her – their marriage was actually not too great in the two years leading up to his death – and Susan just can’t shake the feeling that something was really wrong.
Andrea Morley, the fire inspector in charge of the homeless shelter fire investigation, knows that she has no right to grieve for the loss of David Marlowe. After all, he was someone else’s husband. Even though the media attention of the terrible fire has made her in demand as an investigator, she still misses her closest friend.

Peter Brennan’s life was forever changed after the Grove Street fire. As the fire chief, he can’t get out from under the weight of guilt from that night. Could he have done more to save his fellow firefighters? Trying to rebuild his squad of firefighters is difficult in a small town, and he also keeps finding himself doing tasks, reluctantly, at the new shelter. As Peter is drawn more and more to the shelter, he wonders if it is to the shelter itself or to its director, Susan Marlowe.
The fire that affected so many lives was a terrible tragedy. Yet, through it all, there is forgiveness, growth, and even new love.

I don’t read a lot of contemporary Christian fiction novels – I stick to mostly historical fiction – but of the contemporary Christian fiction books that I have read over the last few years, I have enjoyed Deborah Raney’s the best. She writes about typical people, and she is able to keep the characters normal. They have emotions and express them - they deal with difficult things – but Ms. Raney is able to write these characters and events well without going over the top.
The storyline in After All, was the most interesting of the three in this series. It was complex and involved several characters, which kept the plot moving. There were only a couple of times when I felt things could have moved along a bit faster. As I have said in my previous reviews of these novels, the author does really well in writing about the complicated topic of the benefits and roadblocks to having a homeless shelter in a small town. The shelter repeatedly comes under attack from the community in this novel, but Susan is determined to keep it running. I liked her unwavering commitment to something that was good even when it was unpopular. I was so sad when I would read about the people in the town, even Peter, who were not supportive of the shelter.

Although I still think he has a little ways to go, I liked seeing how Peter’s character grew throughout the novel. His opinion of the shelter softened some, and he was able to form somewhat of a relationship with Susan’s son. He also started attending church again and seemed to no longer be trying to shut God out of his life. I think he still has some things to learn, but don’t we all?
I also enjoyed the part of the story that revolved around Andrea and her relationship with Susan’s late husband. Andrea was not always a sympathetic character, but her story is important in terms of the overarching plot throughout the series. I think the author did well with portraying the indiscretions of Andrea and David, noting that the relationship was improper even though it did not advance physically.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that Susan and Peter sometimes acted immature. They seemed to act like two teenagers dating instead of two adults who had both been married before. (Does he like me? Is there anything there? Oh, he’s having lunch with her – he must not like me anymore). I would think that people in their 40’s would just talk to each other honestly and not play games. However, when I said this to my husband (who once again is listening to my running commentary on yet another romantic novel…!), he said that maybe they were acting like that because they actually had not been on a date since they were teenagers. And that’s a good point. If you’ve never had a boyfriend as an adult, then I guess you might not know exactly how to act. But, it is one of my pet peeves when the two main romantic characters in a novel choose to play childish games instead of just talking to each other.
Overall, I enjoyed the Hanover Falls novels by Deborah Raney, and this one, After All, was my favorite.

I will give After All … 3 ½ BookWorms.

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

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