Sunday, May 08, 2022

The Road to After

Lowell, Rebekah. The Road to After
May 10th 2022 by Nancy Paulsen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lacey, her younger sister Jenna, and their mother have been allowed to leave their home only infrequently for the thirteen years of Lacey's life. There are lots of rules that have to be followed to keep their father happy, and he becomes violent and abusive when the rules are broken. When her father is gone, her mother packs up Lacey and her sister, and with the help of the police and her grandparents, the family is removed from their house. They have to leave their dog, Mac, behind. The mother presses charges, and the father is put in jail. They stay briefly with their grandparents, Mémère and Pépère, but soon move to an apartment at Caring Unlimited, a shelter for families displaced because of abuse. There are counselors for the girls, which is especially important for Jenna, who at the age of four has never spoken. There is a garden at the shelter, a library nearby, and the mother gets helps to apply for a graduate program. They are concerned about being seen out in public, and it's a new experience for Lacey to have so much freedom, and the three slowly get used to being out of their home. Eventually, they pack a donated van and move from Maine to Virginia for the summer. There is a woman to watch the girls while the mother attends classes, but Jenna screams for so long that the mother tries to take the girls to class. This isn't allowed, so Mémère comes to watch the girls. After the summer, the family returns to Maine and live in a house across the street from the grandparents. They adopt kittens, join a homeschooling co-op, and try to navigate a different life. They have to go through the legal process to make sure the father doesn't hurt them again, but slowly readjust to their new life. 
Strengths: While we pick up the story as the family is being removed from their unfortunate situation, there are plenty of circumspect details about the father's treatment of them described as Lacey and her sister learn to deal with the world outside their home. There are a lot of good details about the legal process as well as the therapeitic one, and it's good that the grandparents and Caring Unlimited are there for support. Things are better, but it doesn't mean they are perfect; one of the kittens they adopt becomes ill and dies, but this leads to a very fortuitous trip to the animal shelter. This feels very authentic, and Lacey's somewhat confused emotions are nicely portrayed. The author says in an afterword that she had experience with domestic abuse, and she is able to use her experiences in a very effective way. There are also sketches throughout the book that she has done, and the book ends on a positive and hopeful note. 
Weaknesses: This is a novel in verse, but it reads very much like prose, which is how the vast majority of novels in verse are constructed. I do have a few students asking for this type of format, which I haven't in the past, although they do seem to prefer ones with cultural connections, like Faruqi's Unsettled or Warga's Other Words for Home. 
What I really think: The abuse in this book isn't quite as bad as the abuse intimated in Stronger Than You Know, and the characters are a bit younger. Hand to readers who want books that show what it's like to escape a horrible home situation, like Smy's The Hideaway or Raúf's The Star Outside My Window. This is also a good replacement for Vigilante's The Trouble with Half a Moon (2012) if that one has fallen apart! Ten years seems to go by in the blink of an eye when it comes to books!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it's done well but it's not a type of book I am drawn to (though I enjoy The Hideaway). Thanks for the review,