Book Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Life After

Katie Ganshert

Available 4/18/17

 

My review

This story. Wow! There is so much I want to say about this book, so many things I want you to know but at the same time, I want readers to experience it for themselves. Katie Ganshert has outdone herself with this one.

After the tragedy on the tracks, life for many Chicagoans is now defined as before and after. As Autumn Manning, the sole survivor grapples with the why of her life, she is haunted by twenty-two ghosts. Ghosts of those who she believes should have lived instead of her.

And then there’s Paul, Reese, and Tate Elliott. A family who lost one member during the attack. But the before is not the same for all of them. Tate doesn’t have many memories of his mom, Reese wants to change hers, and Paul wrestles with the truth behind his marriage.

When Autumn and the Elliotts’ paths cross, there are moments. Moments of laughter, moments of hope, moments when they forget the tragedy and focus on life. As these four try to make sense of the tragedy, to put the before behind them, there is a small glimpse into the future. One that, while loss and grief are a part of life for many, it doesn’t have to be something that defines them.

Another beautiful, poignant story from Katie Ganshert that had me wanting to stay with Autumn and the Elliott family long after the last page, to follow them into what I hope is happiness and joy despite the pain they all have suffered.

My Rating:

 

More about the book

Loop train riding above a street in Chicago

 

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 bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

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Disclosure statement:

I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Home on the Range by Ruth Logan Herne

This week, Home on the Range, Ruth Logan Herne’s second book in her Double S Ranch Series is available to purchase. Here’s a fun fact. I got to meet Ruth Logan Herne (and a bunch of other Christian fiction authors) at the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat this summer. It was a blessing to get to learn more about several of my favorite authors—and there was lots of laughter throughout the day.

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But let’s get back to why you’re here. Readers met Nick Stafford and his daughters in Back in the Saddle but we get to know this little family more in Home on the Range. As Nick’s oldest daughter Cheyenne struggles with school, she’s on the verge of being held back. When the principal suggests a counselor, Nick is unsure. Surely he can help his daughter—both of his daughters. He doesn’t need any help.

Upon their first meeting, Elsa Andreas doesn’t seem interested in taking on the challenge of his daughters either. But it doesn’t take Nick long to realize that he does need help and seeing Elsa with his girls, he realizes she’s the best person to work with them. Soon he finds himself taking her advice with his relationships and he is drawn to this quiet, even-keeled woman. A woman who is so different from his ex-wife.

Both Elsa and Nick must come to terms with letting go of the hurts of their past, of realizing their perceptions of the past aren’t reality (the difference between a child’s perspective and an adult’s), but will those understandings come to late to build the future they both long for and dream of?

These two characters were a perfect fit for each other. Nick’s a gentleman at heart, caring for the little ladies (and the new woman) in his life. Elsa is patient and everything Nick needs in his hectic life.

The author depicts life on the farm (the good and the bad) in a beautiful way. And since some of my family lives in Washington State, I could picture the Stafford Ranch clearly in my head. Even if you’ve never been to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, you’ll experience it in Home on the Range.

***The publisher provided me a complimentary copy of this book via Bloggingforbooks. I was not required to write either a negative or positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Guide Me Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

As a resident of Nashville, I’ve made the trek north into Kentucky to visit Mammoth Cave, and believe me, its name does not do it justice. Standing in the entrance of the large cave, a visitor realizes the vastness of God’s creation (and it’s just a small, tiny part of this large cave system). I’d post a picture, but it would just be a picture of blackness.

In Guide Me Home, Kim Vogel Sawyer, offers readers a glimpse into the world of the cave system while giving quite a bit of history—and yes, this is a work of fiction so some of it is creative license but much of it (the creatures, the trails, the saltpeter mining, and more) is steeped in fact.

guide me home cover

Rebekah Hardin’s desire to ease her family’s sorrow and suffering lead her to take a job as a guide at the Mammoth Cave resort—a job that is given only to men. Her determination leads her to don men’s clothes and grasp for the job. While Tolly Sandford see’s through Rebekah’s disguise almost immediately, he’s not keen to turn her away and hires her as Reb. Devlin Bale has set his sights on mapping out the cave system as his senior project—one that will not only get him to college graduation but will also give his father a step up in his run for state senate. Cissy Hardin is not like the rest of her family, she believes she’s destined for something greater, something more than being a poor Kentucky farmer’s daughter and she’s determined to make that reality happen no matter what.

As these four lives are intertwined both in the cave and in the land surrounding the cave, each person must face a truth that isn’t always pleasant. Rebecca struggles with guilt, Devlin (while a good person and a complete gentleman) has not yet found the true Source of Light, Tolly’s own burden of guilt weighs heavily, and Cissy’s selfishness and self-importance hurt more than herself.

A story that so beautifully illustrates light in darkness, peace that surpasses understanding, and love undeserving, Guide Me Home is worth the read.

***Blogging for Books and Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton

As someone who has lived in the South for almost twenty years, sometimes I forget that almost 100 years before the Civil War, there was another one waged on American soil—one between the British and those of the new Colonies. Author Lori Benton brings pieces of that war to life in the second book of her Pathfinders series, A Flight of Arrows

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The Wood’s Edge left readers hanging, wondering what would happen with two families torn apart by a desperate and selfish act of one man. A Flight of Arrows brought a fitting (albeit not all happy) conclusion to the tale of Anna Catherine, Two Hawks, Good Voice, William Aubrey, Stone Thrower, Lydia, and Reginald Aubrey.

A story of two families, two peoples brought together through love and forgiveness. A story of what true sacrifice and God’s grace looks like through human eyes. Lorie Benton once again weaves a compelling tale that is sure to leave an impression on every reader who opens the pages of this beautiful book.

***Blogging for Books and WaterBrook Press provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

the art of losing yourself cover

I had never heard of Katie Ganshert before reading A Broken Kind of Beautiful (which I still think is the best ever title of a book). After reading that book last year, I devoured her other two books and have been anxiously awaiting the one I knew she has been working on. The Art of Losing Yourself was worth the wait.

After an incriminating video goes viral, local meteorologist Carmen Hart is required to take a leave of absence from the television station where she works. Carmen lives two lives—the perfect, painted on version in which she is happily married to the local high school football coach, loves her job, and attends church every Sunday and the one where she is drowning in so much sorrow and pain she doesn’t know how to climb her way out. When local authorities call Carmen about a trespasser at her aunt’s abandoned motel and she drives out to find her half-sister. Gracie’s presence is a struggle for Carmen both because she feels guilty for abandoning her with their alcoholic mother and because she wants to break through the walls Gracie has built around herself.

art of losing yourself quote

Ganshert’s tale is told through both Carmen’s and Gracie’s points of view, which allows the reader to take this journey along with each sister. Carmen is broken, and you hurt for her in her suffering while at the same time wanting to shake her until she opens up to those around her who love her. I loved Gracie’s acerbic sense of humor and several of her comments or thoughts made me laugh. But this story is truly about healing. Healing relationships, healing past hurts, and healing from God. Ganshert digs deep, opening some emotional wounds in each of her characters that bleed. Wounds that require more than a bandage and a kiss to make it better. My only objection to the story? I didn’t want it to end. I want to spend more time with Carmen Hart and Gracie Fisher.

Want to learn more about the author? Visit Katie Ganshert online.

****Blogging for Books and Waterbrook Multnomah provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.