Looking for a great book for the beach, or a quiet Sunday by yourself? After the Rain is that kind of chick lit book. It will make you smile, laugh, cry and feel good.
Suzanne Paris (not her real last name), a freelance photographer, is running from life and an abusive ex-fiancé. The fact that she sold some photos that he had given her, which she recently discovered were stolen property is just one of those reasons she is hiding. Fate seems to have intervened. She is on a Greyhound bus, listening to a man with a nice, warm accent, when she sees a sign in Walton, Georgia. The sign says: “Welcome to Walton. Where Everybody is Somebody.” She gets off the bus, thinking this might be a good place to lay low for a little while.
Suzanne meets and becomes ensnared by the Warner family. Aunt Lucinda has gotten off the bus with her. She has been picked up by her nephew, Joe and his six children. Joe is a widower, having lost his wife to cancer three years ago following the birth of their last child. Joe is lonely and struggling to raise his family, with the help of his aunt and the entire town.
This is Suzanne’s story, daughter of an alcoholic mother, raised primarily in foster homes, and Joe, the rock solid mayor of this small Georgia town, raising his children, running for re-election and trying to be a good teacher and coach at the high school. But it is also the story of the children and the town. It includes Cassie, the sister of Joe’s dead wife, and her husband Sam whose romance was the centerpiece of a previous book, Falling Home. Maddie is Joe’s seventeen-year-old daughter. She has the talents to be a good photographer and is grappling with her future. Miz Lena is an 83-year-old ex-teacher who seems to have moments of senility…or does she? Charlie “Stinky” Harden has returned to Walton to oppose Joe in the election, yet seems to have selfish motives behind all he does.
The heart of the story, though, is Suzanne and her quest to discover who she is and what she wants from life. She wears a necklace that has these words imprinted: “A life without rain is like the sun without shade”. Suzanne finds the true meaning of these words here in Walton, but it is not an easy lesson.
This story grabbed me from the beginning when I felt Suzanne’s angst and knew from her first interaction with Joe that he was a man who could help her. Joe is the kind of hero you want: strong, resilient, loving, and yet vulnerable. Yet, the writing of their story is entertaining. White throws in humor that seems real. When the four younger kids are running around the convenience store arguing with each other and not listening to their older sister, it is chaos that anyone in a similar situation can relate to easily. When Joe goes to the lingerie store to buy one of his daughters her first bra, I could feel his embarrassment and relate to my own life.
The romance between Joe and Suzanne flows smoothly throughout the story. The stages of their relationship are spaced and realistic so that when they make love for the first time, it seems the natural culmination of their feelings. There is sexual tension and lust, but the real story is how they feel personally. Their love is based on their relationship, not just on animal lust. I am always amazed when I come across this in a story because this is so often not the case in romance fiction.
There are just a few areas that create dissatisfaction in the story. The depiction of Harriet, the deceased wife, is a little too saintly. It is understandable since the author is making a point, but less than believable.
Suzanne is a tad self-sacrificing in the end, causing some brief discomfort for me. She has never felt love and when she does, she decides too easily to chuck it all and be a martyr. I think she would have been more true to form to fight a little harder, but she comes quickly to her senses.
After the Rain is a great way to spend some time in a nice small town in Georgia, involved in a great little romance between two people you’ll enjoy getting to know.