If you need something terrifying that feels both perfectly normal and upsettingly strange, pick up Afterwards, by Rosamon Lupton, the British writer behind the intricately plotted Sister. In her brand-new novel, Lupton starts off with a fireball, literally: Grace arrives at her children's school for a field day and finds the building raging with flames. Her younger son is waiting outside, but her 17-year-old daughter, Jennifer, is trapped on the third floor, and Grace rushes in to save her. From there, we skip forward to the hospital where both Jennifer and Grace are unconscious but able to hover above the action in the hallways and rooms, unable to speak or move their bodies but still trying to comfort their families—and protect their own lives. The fire, it turns out, was only the beginning; someone is still making attempts on Jenny's life. Lupton's dexterity at handling the subplots and possible suspects is dazzling. With a fired teacher, hate mailer, jealous classmate, battered wife and more and more in play, you really can't predict whodunnit in the art room with the white spirits, until all is revealed. At times, Grace's direct address to her husband (she calls him "you") is distracting, but Lupton creates such lovely, believable feelings in all of her characters, such as her description of a sleeping child as a "chocolate moment" that "makes up for the broken nights and exhaustion and battles over broccoli," that what's ostensibly a supernatural story feels very, very human.
— Leigh Newman
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, December 9, 2013