AFTERLOVE
Robert Rosenblum


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New American Library, Mar 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

One minute Kate is a happy and successful teacher, wife, and mother of two. The next, her family is dead. Kate finds the necessity to survive nearly impossible to bear. "There was a fissure in her being," author Robert Rosenblum says, "and a seismic shift could happen at any moment, toppling everything on the surface."

In her despair, she finds one thing to latch on to. A nurse at the hospital says she saw Kateís daughterís soul leave her body and float upward. This starts Kate on a round of futile visits to psychics. She wants desperately to be reunited with her loved ones, but she is completely incapable of believing anything any medium tells her. As I read I was stunned from the cumulative effect of watching this woman talk herself out of anything that offers her the least hope or belief.

At first Gabriel is no exception. Gabriel, a Nantucket hermit with a hostile attitude, is very reluctant to conduct a sťance for the frantic Kate. All the clues the author is giving us say Gabriel is the real deal, but our smart, educated heroine can find reason for doubt in the tiniest things. At last, when Gabriel or his insubstantial contacts refuse absolutely to tell her what she wants to hear, she leaves Nantucket. "A good thing she was leaving the island, she concluded; she needed to rescue herself from the temptation to give him the benefit of the doubt."

As we get to know Kate and Gabriel, we know long before they do what is going to happen. On the other hand, it is a total surprise to Kateís friends and her mother. On top of raging survivorís guilt, Kate has to deal with the expectations of the people around her, and her expectations of herself. She must decide who she is going to be once she has found a new basis for her life, and then make it stick.

So youíll know where Iím coming from, after my mother died several members of our practical, educated family reported contacts with her. This made Kateís determined doubt especially irritating to me. On the other hand, AFTERLOVE is the best written book Iíve read in the past month, the product of a talented, practiced pro. Rosenblumís images of Kateís broken inner landscape are just as successful as her external perceptions, and he keeps them in a natural balance. He is never so much in love with his wording as to let it get out of hand. The result is a living, breathing experience of grief. I especially recommend AFTERLOVE to those who are having trouble adjusting to the death of loved ones.

Mar 2003 Review Originally Published on WOR

 

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