Attempting to understand the human experience, and dealing with the aftermath of tragedy is something to which all people can relate. Mary Beth Keane’s novel Ask Again, Yes explores this phenomenon through the Gleeson and Stanhope families- neighbors in a suburb of New York City. The reader is introduced to the parents of both families at the beginning of the novel, and walks through life with their youngest children, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope.
Only Child is told by six-year-old Zach Taylor, whose world is turned upside down when a gunman enters his school and kills nineteen children, including his older brother. The author has an uncanny ability to enter the mind of a small child and describe events as only a small child is able. The voice of innocence and wonder, sadness and confusion jumps out of every page as Zach tries to comprehend the tragedy that has befallen his family and the actions and despair of the adults around him, including his parents.
British consul, Geoffrey Firmin, is living in Mexico in self-imposed exile, solitary and saturated with liquor. He was once happy, or maybe ne never was. He isn’t sure now that he’s too riddled by alcoholism to even put on his socks. But on this day, The Day of the Dead, 1938, he has a visitor. His wife Yvonne has come to rescue the consul from himself. Maybe she can persuade him to leave Mexico behind and start over with her. Maybe she can salvage their marriage, left in ruins by her string of affairs with Geoffrey’s two best friends – both of whom are there with him in Mexico. They
Cadence Sinclair is a high society fifteen-year-old who's family owns Beechwood Island off of Martha's Vineyard. Her grandparents have built each of their three daughters homes on the island so that the whole extended family can come and stay each summer. The three oldest grandchildren - Cadence, Johnny and Mirren - and their friend Gat form an inseparable group called the Liars and spend each summer bounding around the island, until Cadence has an accident and her whole world unravels.
In the days before Hurricane Katrina is to hit Bois Savage, Mississippi, families are preparing their homes for the event as they’ve always done. Young Esch and her brothers have been left to their own devices since their mother’s death as their father is usually too drunk to care for them. One brother struggles to win a coveted scholarship to basketball camp, one dotes on his Pit Bull who has just birthed a liter of valuable puppies, Esch reaches a startling and unwelcome epiphany, and the youngest just gets in everyone’s way.
In The Leftovers, Perrotta puts human relationships under a microscope, sometimes to chilling effect. The town of Mapleton has never stopped reeling after the Sudden Departure, when large numbers of random people simply vanished into thin air. When the smoke clears, those left behind not only grieve for their friends and family who are suddenly gone, but also wonder why they were spared (or not spared).