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All That Followed

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A psychologically twisting novel about a politically-charged act of violence that echoes through a small Spanish town; a dazzling debut in the tradition of Daniel Alarcón and Mohsin Hamid

It's 2004 in Muriga, a quiet town in Spain's northern Basque Country, a place with more secrets than inhabitants. Five years have passed since the kidnapping and murder of a young local politician--a family man and father--and the town's rhythms have almost returned to normal. But in the aftermath of the Atocha train bombings in Madrid, an act of terrorism that rocked a nation and a world, the townspeople want a reckoning of Muriga's own troubled past: Everyone knows who pulled the trigger five years ago, but is the young man now behind bars the only one to blame? All That Followed peels away the layers of a crime complicated by history, love, and betrayal. The accounts of three townspeople in particular--the councilman's beautiful young widow, the teenage radical now in jail for the crime, and an aging American teacher hiding a traumatic past of his own--hold the key to what really happened. And for these three, it's finally time to confront what they can find of the truth.

Inspired by a true story, All That Followed is a powerful, multifaceted novel about a nefarious kind of violence that can take hold when we least expect. Urgent, elegant, and gorgeously atmospheric, Urza's debut is a book for the world we live in now, and it marks the arrival of a brilliant new writer to watch.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published August 4, 2015

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About the author

Gabriel Urza

6 books22 followers
Gabriel Urza received his MFA from the Ohio State University. His family is from the Basque region of Spain where he lived for several years. He is a grant recipient from the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and his short fiction and essays have been published in Riverteeth, Hobart, Erlea, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, Slate and other publications. He also has a degree in law from the University of Notre Dame and has spent several years as a public defender in Reno, Nevada.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 82 reviews
Profile Image for Stacia.
834 reviews103 followers
March 27, 2021
“He had been asking me for the Basque translations of peculiar words like these since the first day we met. He spoke Euskera well, but his vocabulary had holes in it, lacking, for example, a whole range of words that dealt with pain or toil, as if his family home where he had learned his Basque was free entirely of grief, or tenderness, or aching.”

I think grief, and tenderness, and aching reach the core of this haunting and riveting story told through three different narrators. Quite brilliant and highly recommended.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,923 reviews731 followers
May 30, 2015
Thanks to LT's early reviewer program I was fortunate to have received a copy of this novel. More about the book closer to its release date, but this turned out to be a really good read. It starts several years after a kidnapping and death; the story weaves in and out of time until it gets to what actually happened, the circumstances that made it possible, as well as the aftermath, all from the points of view of three different people. Specifics forthcoming, but for now, if you've been considering whether or not to try it, it's a yes.
202 reviews
July 13, 2016
I just finished All That Followed earlier today, and I'm still trying to get my bearings. What just happened to me? Whatever it was, I sure liked it. Knowing this was a work of literary fiction, I expected stylized prose and sophisticated technique that would make me inclined to pause and ponder as I read, regardless of how exciting the storyline turned out to be. I am a very slow reader for one so avid.

However, I finished this in just two sittings. The short chapters that jettisoned the reader among the perspectives of the three main characters and to different points in the story kept my attention rapt as I tried to piece things together and see what happened next. The setting, unusual and foreign to my experience, and the novelty of the storyline itself created a totally immersive reading experience. Without sacrificing intensity or depth, the tiny chapters were easily digestible and kept me hungry for more of what author Gabriel Urza was cooking.

I wish I could offer more intelligent commentary on his style, but my imagination was entirely captivated by the plot. I definitely recommend to my fellow readers what for me was an incredibly enjoyable ride! I look forward to reading this novel again, so that I can appreciate how the technical elements of the author's craft build such a compelling drama.

Please be advised I received a free advanced edition of this novel in exchange for publishing an honest review as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Thank you for reading my ideas; I'm sorry they're not more well-developed. I hope my view can be useful to some of you in deciding whether this book would be of interest.
177 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2015
This is the first novel I have ever read about the Basque separatists, even though I have studied in Spain and read in both Spanish and English. I remember the bombings in Atocha Station and the initial conclusion that Basque separatists were to blame. My Spanish friends didn't believe the accusation for a minute, describing the Basques as hooligans, not terrorists. It turns out of course they were right. This novel dissects this hooliganism, examining its roots, demonstrating its growth in the dead-end Basque town with little to offer its youth. An old American English teacher and his young replacement add perspective to the narrative as one idealizes rural Spain and the other romanticizes the separatist struggle which was also the struggle of his grandfather. The mischief comes to a head with a murder of a young Councilman, thus ripping open the mendacious cocoon which has swaddled the town and its inhabitants. The discussion of the politics is handled deftly, not interfering with the finely drawn characters. My only quibble with the novel is that the initial chapters are told from so many different perspectives in various time periods that it took me a great deal of time to figure out what was going in. He even gives the old man's dead wife and the young man's girlfriend the same name. Why?
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,400 reviews
September 30, 2015
The Goodreads classification of the book as a Mystery is misleading. So is the blurb, which asks the question if the man convicted for it was the only one responsible for the Councilman's death. I spent a long time theorizing about a number of possible culprits who could have masterminded the plot and why, but I needn't have. This apportioning of blame is for indirect slights, not for the direct act of his murder. The book is more a, I want to say character study, but I didn't feel very illuminated at the end of it, so I'll go with a study of events preceding his death.

All That Followed is an undoubtedly well written book, but I was hoping for more. What I was hoping for was the complicated, bloody history of the Basques, in personal point of views, but the book had bare sketches. The sketches themselves were fascinating and enigmatic, but they only served to heighten my disappointment that there were no glimpses into the minds of the more interesting characters - Nerea, Asier, Morgan. But, all these are my expectations falsified, and I can't condemn the book as lacking because of it. This is the first book of an author I would like to read further.
Profile Image for Gregg Chadwick.
Author 5 books6 followers
July 28, 2015
Author Gabriel Urza's family has roots in Spain’s Basque region. His new novel "All That Followed" shows us the faces of civil wars - the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's, the Basque separatist movement, and the small wars that families and couples often find themselves fighting. Urza recounts a fictional tale based on real events that explores the kidnapping and killing of a young politician by even younger separatists in the late 1990s. Urza limns a town where everyone knows where bullet holes were left by Franco's murderous thugs decades before. Ghosts of the murdered seem to arrive in the slanted rain - txirimiri in Basque. In a Rashomon like retelling of the politician's murder, three disparate voices speak in alternating chapters: Joni, an aging American expat teacher. Mariana, the victim's young wife. And Iker, a student activist turned abductor. Joni and Mariana's pain and loss are balanced with Iker's hunger for meaning and action and ultimate indoctrination into violence. Much like the current appeal of ISIS for many young men and women in Europe, Iker finds acceptance into a group of like minded if not lost compadres. Urza's novel does not give us easy answers, but instead focuses on the human costs of political and personal devotion and unfaithfulness.

Urza writes with a deep poetic connection to the Basque landscape and the struggles of its people. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jenny Shank.
Author 4 books68 followers
August 24, 2015
Dallas Morning News, 14 August 2015 10:56 PM

Forest fires in the wilderness can burn all winter, deep under the cover of snow. Old wars, too, can smolder for decades, even centuries, after a truce. The sorrowful memories passed to each successive generation can be so robust they may well be encoded into people’s DNA.

So it is for the characters in Gabriel Urza’s sharp and melancholy debut novel, All That Followed, where Basque people in Spain are still fighting against the ideas of the Franco regime, even though his rule ended with his 1975 death.

Urza, an American of Basque ancestry, works as a public defender in Reno, Nev., a fact that makes the deft circular structure of All That Followed even more striking. A terrible crime lies at the novel’s heart, but Urza doesn’t build up to it for suspense or provide much detail about the trial that followed it. Instead, he’s interested in the intersecting lives and the character of the town itself that fomented a killing, and he reaches back as far as 1939 to tell the story. As layers of the characters’ lives are revealed, it appears they are following old patterns they aren’t fully aware of.

All That Followed has three narrators: Joni, an elderly American who has taught English at a school in Muriga, Spain, for 50 years; his friend Mariana, a young mother raised in the town who received a transplanted kidney she believes is from a deceased member of the violent pro-Basque separatist group ETA; and Iker, one of several young men with Basque nationalist views involved in a plot that killed Mariana’s husband, José Antonio Torres, in 1998.

The chapters are brief and crisp, written in prose that has a timeless quality, each ending with a detail that keeps you reading to find out the next piece of the puzzle, the next clue to the many secrets underlying these lives.

Mariana had left the sleepy town of Muriga to attend college in Bilbao, where she met José Antonio, became pregnant, and then returned home. In Bilbao, they didn’t dwell on their political differences — José Antonio supported the conservative Partido Popular and eventually takes a job with them.

“But it was different in Muriga, where our parents and grandparents had been forbidden to speak their native language for nearly half a century and had lost so many of their artists and politicians and intellectuals forever in Franco’s prisons and graveyards,” Mariana explains. “Working for the PP in Muriga would only guarantee that José Antonio would be treated as an outsider, something he had complained about since we’d arrived in August.”

José Antonio becomes a campaign manager in Bilbao, leaving Mariana and their daughter Elena alone in Muriga during the week. “This town didn’t have room for a man of ambition,” Mariana explains, “unless his idea of ambition was leaving at 3:30 each morning on the sardine boats, or working in a video store, or depositing pension checks for ninety-year-old widowers.”

For decades, the teenagers of Muriga have played at being radical Basque revolutionaries as a sort of rite of passage. They occasionally don black bandanas and raise a ruckus — usually harmlessly. The townspeople tolerate this display because of their history. “We were just kids playing a game,” Iker explains from his prison cell, “the same game that the shopkeepers played each time they shut their storm doors or scrubbed away graffiti. This would go on and on until, inevitably, one team or another broke the rules.”

When some of the more radical teens learn that a right-wing politician is living in Muriga, they immediately begin to watch him, calling him “The Councilman.” When an ETA-connected young man arrives, their activities turn grave.

Joni, meanwhile, will always be an outsider to Muriga because he doesn’t speak Basque, but he still holds the town’s institutional memory and knows the connections between everyone. His late wife’s father was executed in 1939, and Joni thinks “perhaps that bullet has never stopped moving through our town. That it is still traveling through Muriga, striking one of us down every now and again.”

Just as the Confederate flag remains a source of contention in America 150 years after the end of the Civil War, and as farmers in France continue to unearth landmines from World War I, the suffering of the Basque people under Franco remains palpable to today’s Basques. “If there is one thing we’re taught in Muriga, it’s that we owe something to our histories,” Iker says.

This elegant novel makes the story of a conflict and people little known to Americans clear and poignant through its portraits of spare lives caught up in the irrevocable patterns set by history.

Jenny Shank’s first novel, “The Ringer,” won the High Plains Book Award.

78 reviews12 followers
May 28, 2019
I don't like to rate books below three stars unless I really really dislike them and I don't dislike this book, but in struggling for this rating, I went relied on the star hover-overs: 3 being "liked it" and 2 being "It was ok," I'm going with a 2-star rating.

This book was ok. That's about it.

What I liked: The history and observations about Spain and the Basque country, the small-town mentality of the book's location, and the national psyche of an area split by war and violence in recent past.

What I disliked: The Characters and their "development" (or regression), particularly the arc for the female character.

The three main characters are Joni, an American teacher who has settled down in the Spanish town, Mariana, the wife of a slain politician, and Iker, a young man involved in the murder of the politician. Joni is given the benefit of a more expansive backstory than the other two main characters, and felt like the fullest character.

Iker's character is so bland that I struggle to even see the point of his inclusion, unless it is merely to suggest just how many "young radicals" are "created" by the most ordinary things: boredom, peer pressure, and the desire to have purpose...but mostly boredom. I almost felt bad for the character, except that he is so flat in the narrative that it was a struggle to feel anything at all, for any of the characters.

Mariana was my biggest source of frustration. As a female reader, I immediately rolled my eyes at a male author introducing the young, desirable wife of the politician who inevitably finds herself having an affair. The conceit of the setup is that she has recently gotten a liver transplant, whose donor she obsesses over, believing it to be a young male radical. The young woman, suddenly influenced by the "presence" of this young male, suddenly finds the urge to behave differently, take autonomy over her disaffection in her marriage (conveniently, by having an affair, her being the only character that is highly sexualized in the narrative, of course). Every passage with Mariana's character induced eye rolls and head shakes; I just wasn't along for that ride.

For anyone reading the book's blurb, be aware that there is really no intrigue, mystery, or depth to the character's connections or their role in the political assassination. There is no "peeling back layers" to the event or any "key to what actually happened." Be advised, this book is a character study, more of the general psyche of characters than the actual written characters themselves.

While I didn't hate this book, I anticipated its conclusion. I did take away some interesting historical and psychological history and philosophy for the Basque country, and turmoil-filled areas in general. But there's not much more to this book , in my opinion, that would urge a recommendation.
1,852 reviews
September 28, 2015
A haunting novel by a talented Spanish author. The tragedies and sorrow throughout this book are interwoven across the characters.
Set in Muriga, Spain this tale unfolds based on the death of Jose Antonio Torres, a man running for councilman, who was murdered by a political faction of young people tired of the government and politics and base their political actions off the ETA terrorists. Mariana Zelaia is the wife of Jose. She needs a kidney transplant after the birth of their daughter, Elena. Mariana feels the kidney donor speaks to her through the organ itself and her dreams. She believes the kidney is from Inaki Libano, a Spanish intelligence officer killed on June 12, 1995. Mariana is friends with an American English teacher, John (Joni) Garrett, who teaches at the San Jorge private school. Joni's troubled wife, Nerea, dies in a tragic accident killing herself and their two year old daughter. Nerea's father was executed in 1953.
The school hires another American, Robert Duarte to teach English. Robert's new wife, Morgan, is an artist and she feels misplaced in Spain with her new husband and she doesn't speak the language. Robert becomes entangled with Mariana.
Four young men become enthralled wth the political uprisings. Iker Abarzuza and Asier Diaz pay the piper for the actions of Gorka Auzmendi who is seeking revenge for his brother's capture. Their friends Daniel Garamendia and Luken escape punishment. Iker recants his mistakes and misjudgments in his politically overcharged views. He forfeits a lot for his mistake wth twenty eight years imprisonment and losing his young love, Nere, a nurse in the process.
No one wins in this story. It is misfires and disappointments throughout. Everyone is left without what they were hoping for to be their outcome.
Profile Image for William.
9 reviews8 followers
January 9, 2015
wow...wow. ..wow. an amazing book of differing viewpoints on the Basque civil war and terrorism *is it terrorism or patriotism? ) A moving book I'd compare to Captain Correll I'm Mandolin or Beautiful Ruins. I loved it.
121 reviews
October 18, 2015
A wonderful novel - three perspectives of a tragedy woven together perfectly. All the characters are sympathetic and flawed. Also enjoyed the authors rich description of small town mentality. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Leah.
337 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2016
i thought the writing was really lovely but the disjointed timeline was tough to follow at first and the female characters were completely unbelievable to me. i wish the author had told it only from the men's point of view, that writing was very good
Profile Image for Kent District Library.
972 reviews47 followers
October 3, 2016
Join us for a friendly and fun book discussion based upon All that Followed by Gabriel Urza. Event will take place at Kent District Library's Nelson Township/ Sand Lake Branch on October 24, 2016 from 6:30-7:30 pm.
Profile Image for Dan Downing.
1,235 reviews10 followers
September 21, 2019
Few Americans are aware of the Basque region or peoples of Spain. As with so many pockets of dissent around the world, the majority crushes them almost absently mindedly, even when violence erupts, as it does periodically.
In the present novel, the violence is important but not central: the inner lives of the characters in the small town roil and writhe under the assaults of disease, depression, infidelity and loss.
As important as the story is the writing and organization of the novel. Mr. Urza has kindly identified each chapter by character's name, a boon compared to those stories which require reading several paragraphs---or pages---before a voice is recognized.
While not uplifting, not a soaring triumph of the human spirit, "All That Followed" captures the mournful beauty of the Spanish soul, known to readers of Iberian literature, celebrated by such diverse writers as Miguel de Unamuno and Ernest Hemingway and James A. Michener. The Basque have their own soul and special pride, but they are trapped in much the same psychic eddy as the Celts and Spaniards. Even as narrated by an exiled American, the present novel captures that sad beauty.
Profile Image for Camzcam.
451 reviews5 followers
March 6, 2021
Inspired by a true story and set in Muriga, Spain, this is a fascinating, hard to describe novel about the political kidnapping and murder of a candidate in an election in a Basque-dominated community. It has three narrators...the wife of the victim, one of the young revolutionaries responsible, and an old American expatriate who has been teaching English at the local Private School. Having grown up in a place with a pretty sizeable Basque immigrant population, I was shocked to learn more about their plight under Franco and why so many of them ended up in places like Elko, Nevada and rural Idaho. The older I get, the more I realize how truly ignorant I am. The writing is beautiful and tragic and unexpected. The narrators grapple with the past as they try to find meaning and truth in all that followed.
Profile Image for Lisa.
297 reviews2 followers
November 21, 2020
This was a great book. I loved the unique writing style, which wound certainty and suspense into a series of short chapters from the various perspectives of individuals in the Basque region after Franco and during the time when the ETA and Basque separatist movement were engaged in politically-motivated violence. It is a story centered on the tragedy of the death of a Councilman, but winds in the personal and intricate complexities of the people and places involved that never quite fit in the ‘facts’ one might read about these events. I could not put it down. Very highly recommend this book!
August 9, 2017
A very interesting book that deals with the subject of terrorism but which is mostly a novel of a psychological nature, where the three main characters go growing throughout the novel, so that you finally get to understand them. The structure of the novel is original, with changes of characters and temporary structure, but in the end, you get to know the inside of each one of them, their yearnings, concerns and reasons. I highly recommend reading it, I think you will not be disappointed.
1 review
May 21, 2018
This is a fantastic debut novel from Gabriel Urza. As somebody with an interest in Basque Culture and the Basque Language, it was refreshing to read a novel set in the Basque Country that captured the people, politics and weather accurately without the usual inaccuracies, myths and half-truths. Urza being of Basque Heritage obviously helped in this sense, and not only was the plot an interesting one, it came across as very well researched.
Profile Image for Maddie Wells.
40 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2020
The story of a few residents of the Basque region of Spain - a young mother with her child, a 70 year old American who has lived in Spain for most of his life as an English teacher, and young boys entwined in political moves and violence. I really enjoyed all the references to Spain and how the story is told, with the beautiful language describing tragic events. It was a slow-burner, but a great book
Profile Image for Gena.
242 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2017
Lovely easy to read story set in Basque Country in Northern Spain. Engaging characters, compelling story and a good window into a part of the world and a political conflict (Basque separatists) that I knew little about.
25 reviews
May 17, 2023
I just couldn’t get into this book. The rapid changes between narrators made it hard for me to fully invest in any of their stories. The climax felt very anti-climatic. Not a bad read, just not for me.
Profile Image for Bruce Rogie.
25 reviews
March 27, 2019
The stories of several people in a Basque village whose lives are interwoven with the residue of the Spanish Civil War.
Profile Image for Cat Gaa.
77 reviews2 followers
November 13, 2019
Really enjoyed not only learning more about Basque culture but also how the story is told by different perspectives here. Fast read and enjoyed immensely.
88 reviews1 follower
August 30, 2021
-story that wants you to read more/suspenseful
-twists and turns

-slow start
-writing style is a little confusing with time period changes
-some parts of plot seemed to be forced
Profile Image for Roberta.
106 reviews6 followers
September 8, 2015
Originally posted on Roberta's Literary Ramblings

Overall Impression: A decent book that I kind of expected a little more out of, but not a total disappointment.

Recommend for: Fans of literary fiction and character-center stories.

The book ended up not being what I expected, which disappointed me a little. I thought that there was going to be a little more intrigue than there was. Instead the book focuses more on the lives of the people that have to do with the tragedy, both directly and indirectly. I would go further into this line of thought, but then I would be in spoiler territory, and we don't want that. I will just say that it was a little underwhelming. However, I believe that if you go into this book with a realistic expectation of the level of intrigue and go into it knowing that it is more of an examination of three people that were directly affected by the murder, I think you would enjoy the book a little more. I think that this is where most of my disappointment lies with this book.

However, while lofty expectations was one of my major issues with this book, it wasn't the only one. We see from the point of view of three people. All of different ages, cultures, and backgrounds. Yet all of them sounded the same. I couldn't find any distinctive language that made one voice standout from the others. I had to keep reminding myself who was talking when it came to sections when the stories intersected. Fortunately, the chapters were rather short, so this didn't cause major headache while reading, but these characters are so different from one another that I would expect them to talk differently.

Because of this, it made it a little difficult for me to become fully invested in the characters. They felt a little flat on the page which was disappointing, since they seemed to have some pretty interesting backstories. Maybe if the book were a little longer this would have allowed for more examination of the characters. As it is, the lack of distinctive voices makes it really difficult to connect to them and thus difficult to really care about their lives.

It was also difficult to see the growth in these characters over the years. The flashbacks focused more on the actual events happening rather than who they were as people, so we didn't really see any difference between their characters then and now. This was mostly a problem with Mariana since her flashbacks were more numerous than the present day sections, and we didn't learn much about how events changed her in the present. The main focus was on her life right before and during the kidnapping and murder of her husband. There's nothing much about her before this, like there is with Joni, and nothing much after, like there is with Iker. She's only really seen during one point in time, and nothing much happens with her character developmentally during that time. She falls a little flat.

Overall, it was an okay book, but it could have been a lot better.
Profile Image for Zoe Liew.
419 reviews23 followers
July 1, 2015
A digital galley was provided in exchange for a review.

At first I didn't quite know what to think. The chronology was fragmented, disjointed, and confusing. But upon a reread, I realised you can't just rush through All That Followed, it's meant to be read slowly, it's meant to be absorbed, it's meant to be savoured and thought about over and over again.

When Madrid is rocked by terrorist bombings of its Atocha train station in 2004, the people of Muriga are forced to relive the town’s own violently fatal episode of Basque separatism — the kidnapping and murder of a local politician. Through short, lyrical vignettes that flow back forth and in time, three people — Mariana, the victim’s hardened widow, Iker, the young student activist sitting behind bars for the crime, and Joni, an American teaching English in the local high school — uncover the layers behind the headlines, the news reports, and the quotes to reveal a multi-faceted truth.

Slow, absorbing yet utterly haunting, Gabriel Urza’s prose is as subtle as the txirimiri, a rain only found in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a rain so fine it slips under the umbrella’s cuff to cling onto your cheeks. A masterful storyteller, he thematically weaves layers and layers, stories within stories of foreignness through Mariana’s transplanted kidney, through non-native transplants such as Joni and the not-quite-Basque American whom Mariana has an affair with during her husband’s kidnapping, and through Muriga itself, an alien element within Spain longing for separatism. He illuminates the ghosts that bedevil them from the ghost of the terrorist donor Mariana is convinced lives in her kidney to the ghosts of Joni’s dead wife who had lost her father to a Falangist shooting and his infant daughter to the ghosts of the Spanish Civil War, the memory of which never left the town. It's a tale of memories, of the stories we tell ourselves to make the pain and suffering easier, to lessen our culpability, to paint stories of the Other.
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