Review: After Her

After Her

After Her
By Joyce Maynard
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062257390, August 2013, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Touching, poignant and moving. A beautifully written novel by one of my favorite authors.

The Rest of It:

In the late 1970’s, Marin County, California was rocked by the murders of several young women in the area. The killer, known as the “Trailside Killer”, preyed on women hiking Mount Tamalpais. The detective working on the case at the time, Detective Gaddini, had two young daughters of his own, so the continued loss of life hit him hard knowing that these young women would never return home. After Her is loosely based on the details of this real-life case.

Maynard’s book, follows sisters Rachel and Patty Torricelli as their father, Detective Anthony Torricelli investigates the murders of female hikers in the area. The area in question just happens to be the mountain behind their home but even with the added danger and their father’s orders to stay off the mountain, the girls continue to spend their days there.

When the killings continue without any significant leads, the community becomes restless over the investigation’s lack of progress. Rachel. fiercely loyal to her father, takes matters into her own hands.

Oh, what a gem of a book!

I’ve only read one other book by Maynard (Labor Day, soon to be a movie!) but what impressed me so much with that one is what impresses me here. Her sense of place and her knack for creating honest, likable but flawed characters is what immediately attracted me to the story. I loved these girls! Rachel and Patty are what you and I envision sisterhood to be. Rachel, the older of the two, adores Patty. Patty, is often the more sensible of the two, yet Rachel’s imagination is what makes living on the mountain what it is. After their parent’s divorce and the obvious withdrawal of their mother, they are left to fend for themselves. What could be a depressing, dire situation becomes opportunities for adventure.

I loved the simple love and admiration displayed by these sisters. Without a TV in the house, they spend their evenings camped out in backyards, hoping to catch something good on their neighbor’s TV. They play games, shoot baskets and talk about boys. But when the mountain becomes the center of the investigation, staying off of it is close to impossible. Their innocence, given their proximity to the case is endearing. If you long for simpler times, as I do, this book will leave you with a heavy sense of nostalgia.

When the killer makes himself known, I could not help but be angry. As much as they struggle to keep the mountain pure and untouched, there’s no denying that it’s changed for them. And seeing the changes in their father, as he struggles to put the pieces together is enough to almost break them.

Oh, and their father! Anthony Torricelli’s love for his daughters literally leaps off the page. I ADORED him, which is how most women in the story feel about him even with his tendency to be a bit too friendly with the ladies. His tireless efforts to catch the killer, and his remorse over how things ended with his ex-wife lend a sympathetic air to the situation.

Another blogger noted that at page 150, not much was going on but now that I’ve finished the book, I understand what she meant. This book is about many things, but most of all, I found it to be a book about family and what it means to be a family and Maynard’s decision to spend so much time on the girls and the relationship with their father is what makes this story so endearing and heartbreaking. Against the backdrop of the serial killings, the backstory of these characters is like a gentle reminder of all things good.

Lately, readers have been asking me if a book I’ve reviewed is too dark or violent so I do want to mention that although there is mention of rape, the details of the murders themselves are largely left up to your imagination. And given the subject matter, I did not find this book to be dark or depressing.

It’s a mystery, a love story, a coming of age novel and a scrapbook (of sorts) of what it was like to be a kid in that decade. It’s charming, heartbreaking and at times funny. I loved it and highly recommend it.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss

Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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25 thoughts on “Review: After Her”

    1. I really admire Maynard’s ability in creating sympathetic characters. In Labor Day I couldn’t imagine myself being comfortable with that situation and somehow, I was. Same here. The father had so many issues but he was just so darn likable.

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  1. I was the poster who said that there wasn’t much going on by page 150. I still very much liked the book even though the action was slower in coming than I expected. I am a fan of the author and would read anything else new that she writes.

    1. Yes! I remember! I had your email “starred” so that I could talk to you more about the book. I expected more action too given
      the subject but I really enjoyed the slow build of the characters. Did you read her other book, Labor Day? It was a topic
      that I initially had a hard time with, but somehow by the end of the book I was in love. The movie version of it should be
      out soon!

  2. I have a galley of this one and have not gotten to it yet. I love Maynard. She is an amazing author. Had not realized it is based on fact. I love that. Thanks so much for this review. Now I can’t wait to read it.

    1. I could totally see you loving this one, Wallace!

      How have you been? I’ve been thinking of you! I’ve seen a couple of your pics on FB and I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing.

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    1. If anything, I found myself drawn to the area. She made it sound so idyllic. That’s what made it such a powerful read.

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    1. If you enjoy quiet fiction, where the characters do a lot of soul searching, you will enjoy her writing. I love her and I’ve only read the two books!

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    1. Yes, you must read both. And Labor Day the movie has Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet and comes out in January according to IMDb.

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