“I really am going to come watch you play water polo…”
Eh, I don’t think I can actually say that there is anything inherently bad about Marisa Reichardt’s Aftershocks as a novel. That said, I really hated this one. Believe me when I say I did not want to hate it. But I think the problem really lies in the fact that the reason the author wrote this novel is not the reason I picked it up. Thus, the final direction that Reichardt took with her story was not one that I ever could have liked. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
Why Do You Pick Up a Story?
I don’t know about you, but very often I read stories to get away from the horrors of reality. And despite the general premise of this novel, I guess a part of me was expecting a happier ending than the one that I got. And sure, I could say that this book is a study in human resiliency. I could say that the book’s ending was still somewhat happy. I could even say that the book sends a good message about living life to the fullest.
But I hated it.
How to Write a Heartbreak
For me, honestly, the issue I had with this is very much attached to one event within the novel, but it ties closely together with the manner in which the author wrote it all. You see, there’s a way to write a tragic even that captures your readers’ hearts and simultaneously breaks it. Aftershocks was not it.
You see, a reader needs to deeply care about a character for the events that occur in this novel to matter as much as they should. And as much as I liked these characters, I didn’t love them. I wasn’t quite there yet. And a big part of that reason was because I didn’t get to spend enough time with the important ones. We’re barely introduced to the characters when the disaster strikes, resulting in very little time to get to know and like them in a normal setting.
Next thing you know, the amount of time we spend with these characters within the setting is minimal because half the story is filled with flashbacks for one of the two main characters. And honestly? This just irked me so much. I get that it can be hard to write about characters who are trapped under fallen debris, but so much was lost when the author decided to spend minimal time with the trapped characters and focus the majority of her book’s introduction on flashbacks.
Tragedy Minus Emotional Investment
When I think of a novel that had an amazing amount of emotional investment in it that resulted in complete heartbreak, I think of Me Before You. And that is what I would consider an adequate way to write it. With Aftershocks, you don’t get to spend a sufficient amount of time with the characters before tragedy strikes. Thus, you don’t really have the emotional investment necessary to be deeply impacted by the hardships and misfortunes.
And so, instead of being heartbroken as I should have been, I was just annoyed that these were the events I was reading about. And, yes, I can say that there is merit to a story about human tragedies. There’s also merit to experiencing the harsh realities of them through a novel. But I’m not the sort of person who reads to go through tragic events because they really happen in life.
In fact, I read to get away from all that.
Thus, not only did I not have the emotional investment necessary for me to be upset in the ways I should have been, I hated the story I was reading.
I Wasn’t Looking for Tragedy
Ultimately, I guess this book just wasn’t a match for me. I wasn’t looking for something that was going to focus on deeper aspects of a tragedy and rather something about two human beings connecting over shared trauma and tragedy. And sure, we got a little of that connection, but then Reichardt threw it all away rather quickly. This book really isn’t about building connections with people because of a shared trauma. Instead, it’s about one girl’s journey through regular struggles in her life that happen to coincide with a natural disaster.
This isn’t a bad book. But it’s not the kind of book I wanted to read and the author didn’t give me enough time in the beginning to love the characters.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.