Rich Stoehr's Reviews > After the Fall

After the Fall by Kylie Ladd
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's review
Jun 22, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: amazon-vine
Read from June 19 to 22, 2010

I was surprised, while reading Kylie Ladd's debut novel After the Fall, by just how completely I was drawn in. With hints and suggestions and teases I fell into this story. Its not an easy subject to tackle, but Ladd does so with admirable honesty and with a compelling narrative line from beginning to end.

The subject of After the Fall is adultery - or on a broader scale, the ebb and flow of intimate relationships, marriages, and love. Conventional wisdom would say that in such a story (as in most stories) there's a right side and a wrong side, but Ladd's tactic here is to allow each perspective to speak fairly, without taking sides. With four main characters, there is no clear-cut 'bad guy' and no obvious 'good guy' - no heroes, no villains. Just people with honest feelings and justifications for what they did. The characters feel genuine and three-dimensional, not cardboard cutouts or stereotypes. I was sometimes happy with each of them, and at other times frustrated by their choices and mistakes. In each of them I saw aspects of men and women I've known. And, if I am really honest, aspects of myself too.

After the Fall is told in turns by each of the four characters, and occasionally one of their acquaintances gets a short chance at the narration. Mostly, though, we get the story in snippets from Kate, Cary, Luke, and Cressida, the four main people involved. No one gets more than a few pages at a time before jumping to a new point of view. Sometimes it's even shorter; you might see a paragraph or two from Cary and then jump back a little and get a couple pages from Kate, then jump forward and have a page or three from Luke. It's a clever trick, but it doesn't come off as gimmicky. Instead, it lets the story spin out naturally. At one point while I was reading it I realized it was 1:30 in the morning and I had gone over halfway through the book without even noticing the time. To me, that's a hallmark of a story well told.

It came as no surprise to me to learn that Ladd is a psychologist. The early passages read a little like overheard therapy sessions, and the tone overall is slightly distant and clinical. I thought this would be a weakness, but the effect soon wore off as I was drawn into the story and got to know the characters.

In the end, I was impressed by After the Fall. It's a fast, compelling read with rich, believable characters and true insight into a difficult issue. Many will doubtless hate this story, for its balanced perspective, for its honesty, and because its a painful subject in the first place. For those same reasons, I admire it, and I admire Kylie Ladd for writing it. I look forward to more from her.
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06/19/2010 page 10
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Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) Excellent review! I've just started this one late late tonight and can already tell I'll be going to bed much later than I had desired.

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