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Aftermath    by Brian Shawver order for
by Brian Shawver
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Nan A. Talese, 2006 (2006)
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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Aftermath is a unique examination of conscience, following two central individuals, who consistently analyze themselves after a tragic event. The first is Casey Fielder, a general manager at O'Ruddy's restaurant. One slow night in January, Casey dismisses the wait staff early, except for Jenny, who remains in case of late customers. A couple sit at a table leisurely drinking coffee and conversing. Casey's in his office, when Jenny warns him that gangs of boys are gathering in the parking lot. As Casey watches at the window, Jenny suggests calling the police.

There are two gangs of teenage boys - townies from Breed's Township High School on the East Side, ready to do battle with private school students from St. Brendan's of the West Side. Part of the group leaves as the remainder surround one boy, beating him, while another wields a rod of iron, hitting Colin Chase in the head. Casey sees the perps rush off, and runs out to Colin after noticing him lying in a pool of blood. As medics rush Colin to the hospital, police officer Janda repeatedly asks 'why didn't you call the police right away?', castigating Casey for non-intervention. The best answer Casey can come up with is that 'everything happened so fast.' Colin Chase suffers brain-damage, that transforms him to a childlike state.

Lea Chase, the second central character, has realized for some time a wedge between her and Colin. He would arrive home late at night, smelling of alcohol, until it reached a point where his parents no longer bothered to ask where he had been. For Lea, the tragic incident offers a way to reclaim the defiant son she barely knew. Even though others were responsible for her son's condition, Lea is conscious of a feeling that Colin brought the nightmare upon himself. She tends her disabled son, now in a wheelchair and an AdjustaRest, needing constant care. His room décor is changed as recommended by therapists, as it was designed for a teenager, and Colin is no longer at that place in time. Lea painfully examines a perspective of emotions - for a long time she felt that her cold, handsome son was 'an extremely difficult boy to love.'

In this intense story, Lea and Casey parallel each other as they attempt to come to terms with what happened. Casey is fired, searches for other restaurant employment, and his funds dwindle. He agonizes over his passivity that night, attempts to investigate why it all happened, and possibly faces charges of criminal negligence. He is also involved with Rachel, a high school teacher at Breed's.

Brian Shawver is an author to follow for his elegant writing and narrative style. In Aftermath he looks at the aftereffects of a preventable tragedy, in a story of denial and conspiracy, of heartbreak, and shocking social issues, including class differentiation of blue-collar East side vs. white-collar West side. The essence of this novel drifts in and out of a reader's mind long past its ending.

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