After the Rain by Karen White

After the Rain by Karen White is a republished and remastered novel that is full of twists and turns, touches lightly on the desolation of a broken family life and the darkness people can fall into as a result, and the hope that just might be around the corner.  Suzanne Paris is on a bus to Atlanta when she decides on a whim to get off in Walton, Ga., where she meets a large family and finds the home she’s been looking for all of her life.  But with the sun comes rain.  And there is a deluge of it in this book.

Suzanne has a past that is not far behind her, even as her freelance photography job takes her to many places.  She’s running from a life and for her life, and White has created a character who is both likeable and unlikeable.  She keeps secrets even from those know care for her, and her ability to trust others is very tenuous and easily broken by the wrong word or action, which White captures easily in her imagery.  From how she’s described by the muscular, hot mayor Joe Warner — who also teaches at the high school and coaches football — to how Suzanne pauses before answering questions about her past, readers will find a character who is taken in slowly by the small town and its residents but frightened of how her own past could harm them.

“Tides change.  So does the moon.  With the unfailing constancy of brittle autumn closing in on bright summer, things always changed.  If Suzanne had ever had faith in anything, it was in knowing that all things were fleeting.  And for good reason.  The highway of life was littered with the roadkill of those who didn’t know when to change lanes.”  (Page 1)

While things can be fleeting in life, there are things that are ever-lasting, and in this case, White talks about the support systems that we can have within our own families.  Whether those families are the ones we are born into or the ones we fall into or create out of friends and husbands and our own children, they are there to love and support us unconditionally.  Suzanne has a lot of lessons to learn, but the slow unraveling of her fears and her heart is endearing.  In many ways, though she’s an adult, she’s like a child being led into the life she’s always wanted.

“‘Amanda! You quit right now or I’m gonna jar your preserves!'”  (Page 5)

Photography plays a large role in the novel, and Suzanne not only takes photos of the people in Walton but also finds that she’s become a part of the town’s tapestry as she weaves parts of herself into the photos she takes.  Even more poignant, she connects with teenage Maddie when she shares with her the techniques a budding photographer needs to learn that are not necessarily taught in art classes.  After the Rain also offers readers that down-home southern feel that all of White’s novels have — from the caring strangers to the idioms that make the place its own.  There are moments when readers will want to strangle Suzanne for her decisions, and some events are easy to see coming, but the way White writes these characters and their story endears them to readers and ensures their love and struggles will never be forgotten.

Mailbox Monday #205

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Suko’s Notebook.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  After the Rain by Karen White for review in January.

Freelance photographer Suzanne Paris has been on her own since she was fourteen—and she has no intention of settling down, especially not in a tiny town like Walton, Georgia. She’s here to hide out for a little while, not to form connections. Her survival depends on her ability to slip in and out of people’s lives, on never staying in one place for too long.

But no one in Walton plans on making things easy for Suzanne. For one thing, it’s a town where everyone knows everyone else—and they all seem intent on making Suzanne feel right at home. For another, Suzanne can’t help but feel drawn to this tight-knit community—or to the town’s mayor, Joe Warner, and his six kids. But Suzanne can’t afford to stick around, even if she’s finally found a place where she belongs. Because someone is looking for her—someone who won’t stop until her life is destroyed.

2. A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver, which came via SantaThing.

In A THOUSAND MORNINGS, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has come to define her life’s work, transporting us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. In these pages, Oliver shares the wonder of dawn, the grace of animals, and the transformative power of attention. Whether studying the leaves of a tree or mourning her adored dog, Percy, she is ever patient in her observations and open to the teachings contained in the smallest of moments.

3. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, which came via SantaThing.

The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess the powers of enchantment and sorcery, attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities at the height of their powers–the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant emperor Akbar the Great wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolò Machiavelli takes a starring role as he learns, the hard way, about the true brutality of power. Profoundly moving and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the world’s most important living writers.

4. The Ingredients of Love by Nicholas Barreau, unexpectedly from the publisher.

Cyrano de Bergerac meets Chocolat and Amélie in this intelligent, charming, and entertaining publishing sensation from Europe.
While in the midst of a breakup-induced depression, Aurélie Bredin, a beautiful Parisian restaurateur, discovers an astonishing novel in a quaint bookshop on the Ile Saint-Louis. Inexplicably, her restaurant and Aurélie herself are featured in its pages. After reading the whole book in one night, she realizes it has saved her life—and she wishes more than anything to meet its author. Aurélie’s attempts to contact the attractive but shy English author through his French publishers are blocked by the company’s gruff chief editor, André, who only with great reluctance forwards Aurélie’s enthusiastic letter. But Aurélie refuses to give up. One day, a response from the reclusive author actually lands in her mailbox, but the encounter that eventually takes place is completely different from what she had ever imagined. . . . Filled with books, recipes, and characters that leap off the page, The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau is a tribute to the City of Light.

5. Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield for review in February.

Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up—along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans—and taken to the Manzanar prison camp.

Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever…and spur her to sins of her own.

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, which was from our book club gift exchange.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service, and human dignity–principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

What did you receive?