Life After by Katie Ganshert

Life After

It could have been me. Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bom...

Title:Life After
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1601429029
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:352 pages

Life After Reviews

  • Rissi
    Mar 20, 2017

    23 passengers stepped on a Chicago “L” train on what seems an ordinary day.

    It’s ordinary for an elderly man who’s been married to his wife for over sixty years. It’s ordinary for a college student who’s a bright, beautiful young woman on the cusp of her whole life. It’s ordinary for a young mother and son.

    It’s not ordinary for Autumn Manning or Vivian Elliott.

    23 passengers step on the train. 22 passengers never return to their homes in the wake of a bombing. Autumn is the sole survivor of the

    23 passengers stepped on a Chicago “L” train on what seems an ordinary day.

    It’s ordinary for an elderly man who’s been married to his wife for over sixty years. It’s ordinary for a college student who’s a bright, beautiful young woman on the cusp of her whole life. It’s ordinary for a young mother and son.

    It’s not ordinary for Autumn Manning or Vivian Elliott.

    23 passengers step on the train. 22 passengers never return to their homes in the wake of a bombing. Autumn is the sole survivor of the attack, an attack that’s dubbed her the “miracle survivor,” but left her emotionally unable to “live.” When her path intersects a year later with that of Paul, the widower of Vivian, things become complicated, painful and somehow, full of joy in a combination of unexpected emotions.

    Katie Ganshert is one of THE brightest and most talented authors in the contemporary inspirational (or Christian) fiction scene. Or this is my impression of her stories. Her writing is challenging, simple (again, always used as a compliment), and emotional, all of which she conveys to page with a “no fuss” kind of storytelling. It’s no surprise then that her latest novel, Life After, would be no differently composed. In fact, this may be her greatest accomplishment yet.

    is a breathtaking symphony of loss, hope and forgiveness told in a way that brings together so many people without overwhelming the reader by cluttering its pages. Some books can shove too many characters at us, but this is an example when lots of characters are for the benefit of the tale. The characters that come into Autumn’s life aren’t only mere figments of therapeutic release, they’re somehow made to be vital to the story even though their time “on screen” is brief, especially in comparison to Autumn (who carries much of the story) or Paul.

    “I guess that's what life is, though, isn't it? A whole bunch of little moments that don't seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back . . . They become the most profoundly beautiful things.” ― Katie Ganshert, Life After

    This isn’t the typical happily ever after story. Instead, it’s a mature story of love, acceptance, healing and finding our way “home.” Interwoven into this are the personal relationships and tribulations between families. The structure or “set up” of the story is well put together. From the POV switch off to the journal entries and Reese’s letters, this story has all the classic makers of a tearjerker that’s sure to, in the end, leave you with a smile. Though not everything ends up being a rose-colored glass result, I was surprised at the tenderness of how everything comes out even if it’s just a tiny bit “rushed.”

    No matter what, it’s in the flaws that this story shines. Whether it’s the journey to feeling “whole” again; a teen trying to navigate the secret she doesn’t understand; or a man who inadvertently restricts a healthy healing process, the stories in Life After is an emotional heart stopper. Those who enjoy this type of fiction are missing out unless they pick up this beauty. You’ll be hooked from first page to last. ♥

    hits store selves April 18th!

    Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book.

  • Staci
    Feb 03, 2017

    Katie's trademark is writing beautiful novels about broken people.

    In Life After, Autumn Manning struggles to make sense of why she is the lone survivor of a train explosion. She is not at all at peace with herself and barely ekes out an existence.

    It is a well written story with details unraveling throughout. Secondary characters added depth to the story. I especially enjoyed the "headlines" that Autumn interjected throughout.

    My gratitude to Publisher Waterbrook for a complimentary copy of the no

    Katie's trademark is writing beautiful novels about broken people.

    In Life After, Autumn Manning struggles to make sense of why she is the lone survivor of a train explosion. She is not at all at peace with herself and barely ekes out an existence.

    It is a well written story with details unraveling throughout. Secondary characters added depth to the story. I especially enjoyed the "headlines" that Autumn interjected throughout.

    My gratitude to Publisher Waterbrook for a complimentary copy of the novel. The opinions expressed are my own.

  • Beth
    Feb 25, 2017

    Katie Ganshert’s Life After is one of those books that I have a hard time conveying just how much I loved it and just how profound of an impression it made on me. Of the handful of contemporary authors that I read, Ganshert is one at the top of that list and deservedly so. In this story, she deals with the heavy topic of survivor’s guilt, grief and loss with aplomb and clarity. The characters are messy and flawed and so unflinchingly real that I couldn’t help but want the best for them. Though f

    Katie Ganshert’s Life After is one of those books that I have a hard time conveying just how much I loved it and just how profound of an impression it made on me. Of the handful of contemporary authors that I read, Ganshert is one at the top of that list and deservedly so. In this story, she deals with the heavy topic of survivor’s guilt, grief and loss with aplomb and clarity. The characters are messy and flawed and so unflinchingly real that I couldn’t help but want the best for them. Though faith and questioning are central to the story, there is no heavy-handedness here. The story is steeped in tragedy, but ultimately ends with triumphant hope.

    Autumn Manning is a conflicted character, yet wholly relatable. She is the sole survivor of a train crash and her soul cannot find peace in “life after.” She cannot reconcile why she was spared and while so many she feels who were more worthy of survival were not. She is an ordinary woman is faced with complex questions about God’s goodness, life’s purpose and her part in it all. I connected quickly to Autumn’s heart and kind spirit and struggled along with her as she wrestled with the emotions and questions that arose after the accident.

    The secondary characters, including Paul Elliot and his family, are layered and multi-faceted, as are Autumn’s interactions with them. The family members of those who also perished in the accident spoke volumes to this reader, and their interactions with Autumn were both heartbreaking and healing at the same time. I especially found Reese Elliot to be an accurate rendering of a twelve-year-old heart and mind; her character more than any of the others broke my heart – happily Ganshert knows just what to do with those broken pieces, taking what seems irreversibly broken and creating something new.

    Though Autumn’s specific situation is not commonplace, readers can relate to the overall idea of survivor’s guilt and feelings of unworthiness. Ganshert writes in such a way that nothing feels dramatized or added just for the sake of shock value, but rather the characters act in a way that feels normal, even in their out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. This is definitely an introspective, character-driven novel, but I never felt that the story lagged at any point. I squeezed in a page or two here and there whenever I could, yet I didn’t want it to end.

    The ending strikes a poignant balance between realism and hopefulness. The back cover copy calls Life After an “emotionally resonant tale,” and I can’t think of any better words to describe how it has stuck with me long after turning that last page. Katie Ganshert is one of my favorite authors, and of her novels that I have read, Life After is the most complex, layered story yet – just don’t make me choose a favorite because I have loved them all! I highly recommend Life After for readers of contemporary fiction, looking for a realistic, character-driven novel.

  • Heidi Robbins (Heidi Reads...)
    May 11, 2017

    Wow. There are so many things I thought about while I read this book. Surprisingly, I didn't cry (which I tend to do with books dealing with grief), but felt very introspective. I think that's due to Autumn's detached observations, her coping mechanisms, and the deep questions she and other characters wrestled with. The book started a bit slow for me as things began to unfold and be revealed, but the pace steadily picked up and I appreciated the time I was able to take with each level of Autumn'

    Wow. There are so many things I thought about while I read this book. Surprisingly, I didn't cry (which I tend to do with books dealing with grief), but felt very introspective. I think that's due to Autumn's detached observations, her coping mechanisms, and the deep questions she and other characters wrestled with. The book started a bit slow for me as things began to unfold and be revealed, but the pace steadily picked up and I appreciated the time I was able to take with each level of Autumn's reemergence into a functioning life. The part that hit home to me personally was when Paul was reflecting on how his children had grown. It made me think of my relationship with my own 10 year old daughter and how I can preserve our bond and sense of unity that seems to come so naturally when they are younger.

    "There were moments when Reese still seemed so young and innocent, but even more moments like the one he experienced with Tate as he carried him up the stairs, only instead of her weight or height catching him off guard, it was her... apartness. There were more and more pieces of his daughter that were becoming a mystery to him. It filled Paul with the same sense of alarm that it had with Tate. The same sense that if he didn't grab something quick, this monumentally important thing would slip away."

    The book explores many angles of the timeless question of why bad things happen, or why God allows bad things to happen. The thoughts and processes of the characters were natural and realistic, and I loved the profound conclusions they came to as they interacted with each other and learned from the insights shared. Autumn's developing relationship with the Elliot family brought light and hope to her, them, and to the overall story. I especially enjoyed 6 year old Tate and his mannerisms- he practically jumped off the page! I didn't expect a romance to come out of the circumstances, so it was a pleasant surprise, especially when I wasn't sure if I should be rooting for Seth, Autumn's former fiancee, or Paul, who was dealing with more baggage than he could handle. The extended family of Autumn and Paul play important roles that illustrate the variety of family situations, the imperfections, and the love and loyalty we share in spite of it. The way the author wove so many aspects and themes together is beautiful and I highly recommend this novel!

    (I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

  • Rachel
    Jan 06, 2017

    I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Life After. Katie Ganshert is a favorite novelist of mine and I was eager to dive in. Always a masterful storyteller, Ganshert ups her game in Life After. You feel the desperation, the isolation, and the loss felt from the one survivor of a train bombing. She had us thinking beyond those who perish in mass tragedies. What about those who survive? What s their life like after?

    I found myself wanting to return to the story when I wasn't reading it.

    I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Life After. Katie Ganshert is a favorite novelist of mine and I was eager to dive in. Always a masterful storyteller, Ganshert ups her game in Life After. You feel the desperation, the isolation, and the loss felt from the one survivor of a train bombing. She had us thinking beyond those who perish in mass tragedies. What about those who survive? What s their life like after?

    I found myself wanting to return to the story when I wasn't reading it. I love when a story and its characters weigh on my mind like that!

    I highly recommend this book! Pick it up at LifeWay Christian Stores April 2017!

  • Kara
    Jan 31, 2017

    Where does one find words for emotions that have none? That would be my exact tangle of feelings after finishing this story a mere thirty minutes ago. It is a rare moment that I close the final pages of a book and immediately feel pressed to get my thoughts down on paper (or, in this instance, in type on a computer). This is one of those exceptions (obviously). The moments (and emotions) I could suppress no longer, they must be written! So here I am, struggling to find adjectives for you. What I

    Where does one find words for emotions that have none? That would be my exact tangle of feelings after finishing this story a mere thirty minutes ago. It is a rare moment that I close the final pages of a book and immediately feel pressed to get my thoughts down on paper (or, in this instance, in type on a computer). This is one of those exceptions (obviously). The moments (and emotions) I could suppress no longer, they must be written! So here I am, struggling to find adjectives for you. What I

    finding? Is this: for those grieving, for those broken, for those who don’t understand, for those questioning “why”, this story is for you!

    There may seem a simplicity to the plot, yet vast amounts of emotion and chaos rest in these pages. It is not an easy story, but it is certainly a powerful one. I could recount the details (I won’t), I could wax glorious on the characters (I might), I could try and put words to the meaningful things that only my heart understands at this moment (yep, pretty sure that’ll happen #sorrynotsorry).

    In our limited, human understanding of grief and death, the questions that come, the thoughts that circle, these are common things I’ve decided. It’s natural to wonder and wish and regret even a tiny bit. There is always much to be experienced in the After. Whether that After follows a temporary or a final goodbye, it doesn’t matter. The thoughts must be thought, the feelings must be felt. And so it goes with the lone survivor of a train explosion, our main character, Autumn. She is searching for...something. And in these words describing her journey to finding it, the reader discovers a few answers themselves! Or at least, that was my experience. :)

    The beautiful thing about this story, for me, wasn’t entirely the quirky characters, each with their own stories inside them (although they were certainly pretty awesome! :). While they are a wonderful part of this adventure, even when they have a small part to play in the overall big story, they each use even their limited page time to create a huge, final impact, and it was those very moments that struck me the most. This story isn’t just Autumn’s journey, or Paul’s journey, it’s also Reese’s, and Tate’s, and Claire’s, and Ina’s, and many others. It’s all these individual characters and their individual moments that mesh together into one giant, glorious journey!

    I admit it, I sat down with book in hand, prepared to only skim through the prologue and save the rest for later. Only it didn’t work out that way. At all. (And so it goes, fellow readers, am I right?? ;) The first few paragraphs gripped my heart and before I knew it, I was tearing through the chapters, so anxious to find out how things were going to go for all these beloved characters! And then…

    And then!

    I reached pretty near the end and a certain few truths hit my heart like an explosion. As one grieving, they were words of truth I needed to hear. They reached into a crack in my heart that I didn’t really even realize was there and burst it open, blowing everything to smithereens in a mere second! A gentle and beautiful reminder that I had forgotten. I literally wept, my friends. And it’s been a great while since a fictional story has affected my emotions to that degree. It was a moment of softening and love. So as I sit here struggling for words (and writing so very many anyway, huh? ;), all I am ultimately left with is this glorious feeling of happy. Of a heart so filled with relief, comfort, grace, and HOPE. This is a hopeful story, friends.

    So often I strive to be practical when writing a review, but I know I am sadly missing that mark with this one. All I can tell you is it hit my emotions in a way that I was unprepared for! It was an emotional journey from beginning to end and if I could tell Ms. Ganshert anything, in this very, single moment right now the truest words I have for her are these:

    . Your story resonated with me and I am incredibly grateful I had the privilege to read it.

    **I received a complimentary copy via Waterbrook & Multnoma. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • Chelsea Humphrey
    Apr 20, 2017

    What a heartbreaking, beautiful tale! I'm always attracted to tragic stories; not sure if this is due to my love of seeing a hurting soul press through grief and find themselves or what. This was the perfect example of the "why me" narrative. After a train explodes in Chicago, Autumn Manning is the only survivor and she can't live with the guilt and grief. She joins together with another victim's husband that she left behind; together they embark on a journey toward answers and forgiveness. Whil

    What a heartbreaking, beautiful tale! I'm always attracted to tragic stories; not sure if this is due to my love of seeing a hurting soul press through grief and find themselves or what. This was the perfect example of the "why me" narrative. After a train explodes in Chicago, Autumn Manning is the only survivor and she can't live with the guilt and grief. She joins together with another victim's husband that she left behind; together they embark on a journey toward answers and forgiveness. While there wasn't anything mind blowing about the plot, it was so well done and the characters were so intricately crafted that I can't in good conscience give this any less than 5 stars. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a heartfelt, spiritual journey that will bring tears to your eye.

  • Hannah
    May 10, 2017

    An enjoyable, absorbing, heartfelt story. After having a miss with Katie Ganshert in

    , I was hesitant to try again; but because of friends' excellent reviews, I decided to give it a try. I'm quite glad I did! The characters were so vivid and so well-drawn. I especially enjoyed seeing the heroine and the victim's daughter bond with each other...though I must say that my favorite scene was the basketball game in the rain!

    The main thing I didn't like was the repeated simil

    An enjoyable, absorbing, heartfelt story. After having a miss with Katie Ganshert in

    , I was hesitant to try again; but because of friends' excellent reviews, I decided to give it a try. I'm quite glad I did! The characters were so vivid and so well-drawn. I especially enjoyed seeing the heroine and the victim's daughter bond with each other...though I must say that my favorite scene was the basketball game in the rain!

    The main thing I didn't like was the repeated simile of a phoenix from the ashes. It's a mythological creature, and the myth of it isn't exactly compatible with the tenets of Christianity. I understand many people use the symbol now, and have since the times of ancient Egypt, but it was heavily revered and idolized in pagan culture, and not something it seems Christians should compare themselves to.

    Thanks to NetGalley for a free review copy.

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