Short story review from The Best American Short Stories 2006: “The Casual Car Pool” by Katherine Bell

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom. Short reviews of short fiction. This selection comes from the 2006 edition of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Ann Patchett.

“The Casual Car Pool”

Katherine Bell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When a parachute jumper snags his chute on the ropes of the Bay Bridge that leads to San Francisco, readers get a look inside the lives of three strangers in a car pool. The driver, Ian, has picked up his passengers in Oakland and they are stalled just near the end of the Yerba Buena tunnel. A woman named Hannah sits in the front seat and Julia, fifteen, sits in the back. In the beginning, they follow ridesharing’s unspoken rules. No conversation except maybe the traffic and weather.

Ian, Hannah and Julia may not say much, but their actions and their thoughts tell their back stories. Ian is married, but just that morning backed out of their driveway and thought, “If I wanted to, I could leave today and never go back.” Hannah holds in her lap a thick manilla envelope with sperm donor candidates. Annoyed that morning at her lover, Kate, she grabbed it before showing it to her. Julia has skipped school and is headed to meet a Mormon runaway named Isaac, where they will panhandle for money that she will hand over to him at the end of the day.

Meanwhile the jumper hangs and realized that “somehow, by jumping, he had stopped the morning.”

I’ve always liked how short stories reveal just a segment of people’s lives. Here, I like the details the author decided to include. By including only a few details, Bell shows how her characters act in that moment and with only a hint of what will happen after the story ends. Bell’s story touches on relationships and parenthood, privilege and need and the impact strangers can have on your thoughts.

About the Author (taken from the back of this 2006 edition and from Ploughshares):

“Katherine Bell grew up in Cardiff, Wales, and New Jersey. “The Casual Car Pool” was her second story published in Ploughshares. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently works as online managing editor at Cook’s Illustrated, teaches writing at Harvard Extension School and Lesley University, and blogs for the Huffington Post. She is also working on her first novel and a book about quilting.

I highly recommend these collections of Best American Short Stories. I’ve never been disappointed by the stories I’ve read.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Kaitlyn Jain

Author Name: Kaitlyn Jain

Genre: Non-fiction, travel, memoir

Book: Passports and Pacifiers—Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time

Are you a full-time author? If not, what’s your side gig? I spent fifteen years doing marketing and project management in corporate America. As of a few weeks ago, I’m taking a (short?) break to focus on writing, along with overseeing virtual learning.

Favorite author/books: Bill Bryson, Isabelle Allende, Malcolm Gladwell, To Kill a Mockingbird

What experiences or people have influenced your writing the most? I’ve been blessed with great teachers and a fantastic college professor who encouraged my creativity. Traveling with the kids in Scandinavia inspired the book. I recognized the absurdity of what we were doing, but also the pure joy, and I wanted to encourage others to see the world.

Do you keep a writing journal and if so, how do you use it? I’m not the best at keeping it current, but I use it while traveling and write in it when I have time.

Do you belong to a writers’ group? If so, describe your experience: Yes. We meet twice a month to review two pieces. Each of us brings diverse strengths and we’re all at different phases. It’s been a great learning experience—and I’ve read more sci-fi in the past year than I have in my entire life.

Are you up with the sun or do you burn the midnight oil? Neither. I love sleep so try to get in as much as I can while the kids are asleep.

How do you get over a writing slump? Reading a good book, writing in my journal, or just getting out there and experiencing new things. I come up with my best ideas when I’m running or putting my littlest down for a nap—and try to remember what I was thinking in case I fall asleep before she does!

Do you prefer writing dialogue or descriptive passages? I usually start with descriptive passages and change to dialogue to improve the flow. Descriptive is easier for me but the dialogue balances it to make the reading less dense.

What are you working on now? Since I’m launching my first book February 2021, I’m focused on successfully getting this out the door! I have started a second book, similar in content, but with a different spin.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing a book? Go for it! It’s important to try new things and push yourself to do things you’re not quite sure you can do. I find that challenges are merely opportunities you haven’t succeeded at yet.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which podcasts do you find the most interesting? Not really.

Favorite escape: I love reading and travel. I’ve visited nearly every state and 25+ countries. This year, when we couldn’t travel, I read a lot and hiked with my family.

Have you ever tried Kombucha tea? No. My mom loves it though so, based on my genes, perhaps I will at some point.

Do you prefer a couch with pillows or no pillows? Pillows, for sure, though they’re always a mess in my house. They need to be put back or rearranged since they’re inevitably removed for some fort or turned wrong when the kids are pretending the floor is lava.

Would you rather rake leaves, shovel snow or weed? Not weeds. I got poison ivy this summer and it was MISERABLE. I like shoveling because that means there’s snow to play in and go sledding. You can take the girl out of Michigan, but can’t take the Michigan out of the girl.

Favorite mask – disposable paper, plain fabric, colorful print or something else? Reusable and colorful. I usually wear a green mask bearing the name of my kids’ school since I’m PTA president and need to encourage sales.

Biggest writing challenge since Covid-19: Focus and time. Without childcare for three months (and my husband and I both working full-time), it was quite difficult to do much beyond put food on the table. Plus, for my genre, actually going anywhere! I can’t wait to travel with my kids again.

Website and social media links:
Twitter: @KaitlynJain
Instagram: kaitlyn.jain

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

Who’s That Indie Author? Gwen Miller

Who's That Indie Author pic

Gwen Miller
Gwen Miller

Author name: Gwen Miller

Genre: Adoption/Addiction/Memoirs

Books: Echoes of Silence: Letters to a Drug Addicted Mother from the Woman Who Took Her Place – Available now; Apples for Secrets: Former Child Abuse Victims Tell Their Stories for the First Time – Available Summer 2016

Echoes of Silence 2

Bio: Gwen Miller, award winning author and second helping adoptive mother, splits her time between roles as a mom, writer and speaker. Loaded with reams of hands-on experience, she serves as an advocate for the needs, proper diagnosis and treatment of abused children and helps guide adult survivors through a journey of healing.                                                 

Favorite thing about being a writer: As the mother of traumatized children, I struggle with the task of maintaining structure and safety amid a great deal of chaos. Writing gives me the flexibility to be present whenever my youngsters need me. It’s also a much needed outlet where I can find peace and solitude… and often vent.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Marketing & PR without a doubt. I had always considered myself an advocate against the abuse of our children and often spoke freely about my own abuse and called out those responsible. But facing the horrible abuse my newly adopted children had endured, I realized that the cycle had continued on within my own family—two generations beyond mine. In spite of my efforts, I had not stopped it. The only way this cycle will be stopped is by talking about it. The victims are shamed and embarrassed into silence which then allows the predators to feed freely. I’m not really marketing the book as much as I am trying to market a message; something that is quite challenging because it makes people uncomfortable.

Favorite book: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Contact Information: Visit Gwen Miller’s website and blog at You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Please also visit this post about Miller’s fight against child abuse:  Helping victims of child abuse – Echoes of Silence, by Gwen Miller

Are you an indie author looking for some positive publicity? Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!


Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

Black and Blue

Anna Quindlen


Fran Benedetto has been hiding a terrible secret for years, but when her husband, Bobby hits her so hard he breaks her nose and splits her lip, she knows she has to leave. Patty Bancroft, a famous women’s advocate, knows exactly what to do to help women like Fran. So Fran trades one secret for another and leaves New York with her ten-year-old son, Robert, to start a new life with a new identity in a secret place.

Black and Blue takes a hard look at the complicated dynamics in abusive relationships. Bobby and Fran had once been young sweethearts, and there are still traces of attraction between them. Bobby has a volatile temper. She never knows what will set him off, and for undefined reasons, she takes his abuse. In a strange triangle of denial, Bobby, Fran and Robert fall into a pattern, determined solely by Bobby’s moods.

Fran (now Beth) and Robert begin their new life, with the constant worry that Bobby will find them. And they soon discover that it’s hard to break ties with the past. Robert misses his father and Beth misses her sister and, as time passes, even Beth becomes more reminiscent of their little family, and of Robert’s father.

I enjoyed reading Black and Blue because of the complex problems between Quindlen’s characters. She also asks, will the son become just like the father? These important points show how hard it is to break out of an abusive relationship. And when there are children, it’s nearly impossible to make a clean break. In addition, Quindlen gives Bobby a voice, showing his take on their marriage, a man whose twisted desire for control over his wife often includes confused feelings of love and devotion.

While these are compelling issues, I had trouble getting to know Beth’s new friends, including love interest Mike Riordan, because their personalities and actions are unremarkable. Some one dimensional side characters, especially Cindy Roerbacker and Mr. and Mrs. Levitt, seem forced. Stereotypical names, such as Robert’s Cuban friend, Bennie Castro, also take away from the story.

The danger of being found, however, carries the plot to a surprising finish. I think the finish makes the story stronger because it makes you realize that you never know what someone will do.

Black and Blue is a fast and light read about an important subject.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Friday Fiction Jessica Ch 9 I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday

Friday Fiction


Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 9 of Jessica, a story about a nineteen-year-old woman who is trying break the pattern of loss and unhappiness that has defined her childhood. What Jessica wants most is to build a life with her boyfriend, Jimmy, but Jimmy is trapped in a dangerous family dynamic. When Jessica learns the truth about Jimmy, it’s up to her to save him. To do this, she must turn to the one person who has hurt her the most, her father. A series of events pushes Jessica beyond anything she can imagine and forces her to define happiness and love in a different way, and at a heartbreaking price.

Chapter 9 – I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday

Dad had only been gone a few months when I turned thirteen. I called him because I hoped he wanted to wish me a good birthday, and I thought he wouldn’t know a good time to call. Despite our situation, Mom was trying to make the day a good one for me. “You’re lucky to have your birthday on a Saturday this year,” she said. “We can go out for dinner later, but first, Stevie and I have something to do.” She looked at me and smiled. I knew Mom was trying to hide the strain in her voice. When she stopped talking, I could tell from her tight smile that her front teeth were clamped down hard and I felt the heaviness of trying to celebrate something when no one was in the mood. Maybe Dad would lift me up. I waited until Mom and Stevie were out of the house and climbed the stairs. I looked through Mom’s papers in her bedroom and I found Dad’s number written on an envelope.

I don’t think Dad would have answered the phone if he had known I was calling. He would never know that it had taken all the effort I could gather to say, “Hey Dad” as if I had just seen him that morning.

“Jes!” he said. He was surprised, but I was hoping there was also something glad in his voice. I pictured him standing in his kitchen, one I had never seen, holding the phone up to his ear and not knowing what to say. I wondered, but I didn’t want to think if other people were in the room.

I felt my mouth go dry. I had thought to call, but I had not planned what to say next. My hand was wet around the receiver and I felt a trickle of sweat go down my back. I turned and faced the open window and slid my finger through the curly phone line and twisted the cord tightly around my finger, thinking hard what to say next. How could I have been this stupid?

“How are you?” I choked.

“Good!” he said. His voice was suddenly loud, too cheerful. “Working hard. You getting the checks I’ve been sending?” Dad, the Money Maker.

“Uh, yeah,” I answered. Maybe he thought Mom had set me up to call him to check on the money part of their deal. As I stood upstairs in Mom’s bedroom, I caught a glimpse into the closet and saw a lone wire hanger move in the breeze. Dad’s side of the closet was empty and the hanger was the only thing left. My head raced for something more to say.

“Well, good,” he said, filling the silence. He paused for a minute. “How are you, Jes?” I caught the pause and I wondered how a father could feel the awkwardness of not knowing what to ask his daughter.

“Okay, I guess.” I lied. I had been waiting since Dad left for a call or for him to come back. I wanted him back, but I hated where he was. “I guess you don’t remember that today’s my birthday, do you?”

“It is?” he asked. “Well, of course, you’re right. Happy Birthday, Jes,” he added. I thought I was going to feel good catching him at forgetting my birthday, but I didn’t and I don’t think Dad felt bad about his mistake.

I heard noises in the background, voices, kitchen sounds, the echoes of another life. Then Dad put his palm over the speaker part of the phone and said something that was muffled and unrecognizable.

“Hey Jes,” he said, as he released his hand. His voice was too loud. It had a forced cheer and I thought how Mom had just talked to me with a similar false enthusiasm. “I’m glad you called, but I’m going to have to get going. I’m sorry I didn’t remember your birthday. I’ll send you a check so you can get yourself something, okay?” He was rushing me and I wondered if he was afraid of what else I might say.

I ignored his offer. “I thought maybe you wouldn’t know when to call. That’s why I called you, Dad.”

“Well, you’re right, Jes. I don’t know a good time to call. Really, I hope you’re having a nice day today. Now I’ve got to go, but thanks for calling. You take care.” The call was over. I looked at the clock. I had just taken up five minutes of Dad’s life.

That was the last time I called Dad. I decided then that there would never be a good time for Dad to call because I would never come to the phone if he did.

Thank you for reading.  All comments are welcome.

Click below to check out earlier chapters.

Chapter 1 – Jimmy
Chapter 2 – Stevie
Chapter 3 – A Photo and a Letter
Chapter 4 – The Life Within
Chapter 5 – Jimmy’s Truck
Chapter 6 – The Springs Diner
Chapter 7 – Dinner and a Game
Chapter 8 – He Made Me Nervous

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Short story review from: The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction – “Gryphon” by Charles Baxter

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom. Short reviews of short fiction. This selection comes from The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone.

Charles Baxter

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this short story, published in 1985, about an alarmingly unusual substitute fourth-grade teacher in rural Michigan. It’s the kind of story that makes you think about the difference between fact and fantasy, of the uncomfortable strangeness of stepping back and forth between the two, and the strong desire to believe in something excitingly unlikely.

When Mr. Hibler develops a cough, Miss Ferenczi steps in as the new substitute teacher. Everything about her is strange, her clothes, the deep lines on her face, and her curious way of talking to the children. They can’t decide what to think about her, but they listen to her ideas, which sometimes seem like they could be true.

When John Wazny makes a mistake with his times tables, Miss Ferenczi doesn’t correct him. Instead she tells him, “Well now. That was very good.” But the children are quick to point out the mistake. They say it can’t be when she tells them that six times eleven can sometimes equal sixty-eight. It’s a “substitute fact,” she says, and then she asks the class, “Do you think that anyone is going to be hurt by a substitute fact? Will the plants on the windowsill be hurt? Your dogs and cats, or your moms and dads?” And when the children have no answer, she adds, “So, what’s the problem?”

They are uncomfortable, but they want to hear what she says. “We listened,” says Tommy. “No one tried to stop her.” Over two days, Miss Ferenczi introduces the class to a new way of thinking and they are secretly and tentatively excited by it. She talks about the Egyptians and pyramids, about planets and diamonds, Beethoven and Mozart, and of angels. She tells them of the time an old man in Egypt showed her a strange animal, a monster, she says, half bird, half lion, called a gryphon. When Carl Whiteside says he thinks Miss Ferenczi is lying about the gryphon, Tommy runs to a dictionary at home for proof of its existence. He shouts with triumph when he finds the word.

All is seemingly forgotten when Mr. Hibler comes back and the class returns to the predictable routine of school. The sun fades the Halloween display and Tommy secretly measures the shorter days with tiny marks on the wall.

Tommy’s heart pounds when Miss Ferenczi returns in December. This time she brings Tarot cards and invites the children to hear their futures. The story turns with these predictions and Tommy has to decide what to believe.

I like how the author makes subtle references to what life is like for Tommy and people in his town. The dirt roads, unemployment, the heap of rusted cars near the playground, and the ordinary realities at Tommy’s house: a hollering baby brother, a mother who is busy in the kitchen, who wipes her forehead with the back of her and tells him, “You have chores to do.” Next to these images are Miss Ferenczi’s fantastical ideas. Is there any question why Tommy and his class would want to believe her?

This is a great view into the small coming-of-age moments of childhood. Baxter has a terrific way of showing what’s important to kids and of the innocent, but surprisingly sophisticated way children think.

I especially like Baxter’s reference to the gryphon and how he compares this mythical creature to Miss Ferenczi. I also read in an interview that Baxter once had a teacher with the same long lines on her face and I enjoyed his comparison to Pinocchio, a puppet/boy known for telling tales. These are the things that make great storytelling!

Here's what a gryphon looks like!
Is the gryphon real or a myth?
Is Pinocchio telling the truth?
Is the teacher telling the truth?

I also like the references to what schools were like back in the day, the ditto machine and the textbook Distant Lands and Their People, a book I’m pretty sure I remember from my own school days!

Charles Baxter
Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter is an award-winning American author of five novels, many short stories, poetry and essays. His most recent novel, The Soul Thief, was published in 2008. Gryphon – New and Selected Stories was published in 2011. A graduate of Macalester College, he earned a graduate degree at State University of New York – Buffalo. He began his teaching career at Wayne State University in Detroit and later taught English at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. He currently teaches at the University of Minnesota.

Check out Charles Baxter’s website on and read more about him here.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund

a friend is someone who likes you
A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You

Joan Walsh Anglund

I love this book. It was one of the first books I learned to read by myself. It’s a quiet, thoughtful book that reminds me of being a girl and going outside by myself, to look for a friend. The author points out that friends come in all forms and explains friendship in a simple way, that “a friend is someone who likes you.”

It can be a boy…
It can be a girl…
or a cat…
or a dog…
or even a white mouse.

Anglund tells you that a friend can also be a tree with a swing, a babbling brook or even the wind. The wind is your friend because:

It is always with you
wherever you go,
and that’s how you know
it likes you.

I love thinking about this! Anglund even explains how sometimes you might not notice that someone likes you. That’s when you should stop rushing and look around carefully for that special someone who is smiling at you.

This is a gentle book about friendship and quiet smiles, explaining that some people have a lot of friends, some have quite a few,

But everyone…
everyone in the whole world
has at least one friend.

I still remember how special I felt when I read this book. I got it when I was six and I have saved it all these years. It was published in 1958 and is the first of Anglund’s many books.

Anglund is also the illustrator of all her books. In the children, she captures innocence and wonder, whose only features are dots for eyes and rounded faces. Do you remember these faces? I do and my parents still have the Anglund dolls that sat on my bed when I was a girl.

I have this same doll, and a few others too!
I have this same doll, and a few others too!

Here’s a mini biography I found about Joan Walsh Anglund on

Joan Walsh Anglund
Joan Walsh Anglund

Joan Walsh Anglund

(1926–), American author and illustrator. Anglund was born in Hinsdale, Illinois, and was encouraged by her artist parents to observe the world closely. A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You (1958) was the result of the loneliness Anglund felt when moving to New York; it was well received, appearing in the the New York Times list of the top ten illustrated books of the year. About a hundred similar books have appeared since then, easily identifiable by the large-headed children, with their plump cheeks and wide-set eyes, in settings scaled down to comforting cuteness.

Joan Walsh Anglund is still busy creating so be sure to visit her website!

I found more interesting information about Anglund on

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

I’m a guest blogger on Momaste

blogging friends pic

I am excited to introduce you to one of my WordPress blogging friends, “Momaste,” whose site is dedicated to sharing ideas about motherhood and the challenges we all face in that role.  Last week, I was invited to be a guest on her blog.  My post is now up on Momaste and in it I discuss The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, a book that helped me tremendously back in my nursing days.

Be sure to check out my review and take a tour through Momaste’s archives:

Here’s a little bit about her blog:

Just what is Momaste?  It’s a great place to visit for all kinds of information about being a mother, juggling home and work, and the many challenges we face.  Her favorite topics to write about are breast feeding, family, her struggles as a working mom, and moving towards self acceptance. She also finds her way into the occasional poem.

And what does the name mean?

Namaste (nah/mas/tay); is a common greeting and blessing used throughout India, often accompanied by a slight bow with the individual’s palms together. Namaste acknowledges and honors the soul in one by the soul in another. In Sanskrit, it is translated to mean, “I bow to you.”

Momaste (mom/mas/tay); a greeting between mothers which is loosely translated to mean, “the mom in me bows to the mom in you.” (says me!)

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you enjoy her blog as much as I do!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

life after life picLife After Life
Kate Atkinson


This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is a complicated story that begins with both the birth and death of Ursula Todd and moves in different directions as Ursula’s life is saved or rewritten, leaving the reader to wonder whether we are seeing how fate could have taken different turns or if Ursula herself is somehow able to rewind tragedies and try to get them right the next time.

Set in England and beginning in 1910, this story spans both World Wars, but focuses on the period during World War II and the heavy toll it took on Europe. Ursula’s different life paths place her at the center of the German bombings in London for much of the book. In a separate turn of life, she spends time in Germany and twice almost manages to rewrite Adolf Hitler’s fate.

I spent some time reading reviews of Life After Life and, instead of finding all four- and five-star reviews, I found a considerable number of reviews that complained about how complicated and hard to follow this story is. I think there is some truth in these comments and the only way to thoroughly enjoy Life After Life is to study it and take notes – it is worth this effort! I read Life After Life on my Kindle and, although I like paging back and forth with a real book, the “Search” feature made it easy to check on the many details. As I did all this, I started to see Ursula’s lives as a kind of river, with tributaries taking it in different directions.

Here is the diagram I drew to help me!

River of Life After Life

There are many things I like about Atkinson’s writing style in Life After Life. She makes many references to animals, particularly foxes, rabbits, dogs and cats, and ties both their influence and fates into the characters. For example, a seemingly unimportant dog, later named Lucky, changes Ursula’s fate and has a strong positive influence on both Ursula and her brother Teddy. I like the wholeness of this idea, humans sharing the world with nature and other creatures.

I also like the way Atkinson repeats and ties together phrases and presents them in different scenarios. The phrase, “Practice makes perfect” is particularly meaningful as Ursula’s lives rewind and play back with different twists. Sylvie’s frequent comment, “Needs must” is repeated by her daughters at important times and is an example of their mother’s influence, despite their emotional distance from her.  In addition, I think the author’s use of dialogue is great, especially when she ends chapters with a short comment.  What else is there for Izzie to say, for example, when Ursula shows up at her door twice with bad news? “You’d better come in then.” That says it all.

Atkinson uses small details that change as this story moves forward and backwards. These details appear most notably in the scenes with Teddy, Bridget and the Spanish flu. Ursula’s strong desire to save them leads to a variety of outcomes as do her efforts to save Nancy from an awful fate. Many iterations of these scenes lead to different outcomes, some ironic, some heartbreaking and I think Atkinson touches on the “What if?” way of thinking that we all experience in our lives.

I think the repetition of Ursula’s apartment being bombed is the strongest part of the story and Atkinson is able to describe these experiences in a way that shows what it must have been like for people living in London during the Blitz. She tells the story through an omniscient point of view and her use of grim humor shows how Ursula is able to distance herself from this destruction and death.

I always have favorite characters and this time it’s Hugh. He loves Ursula, makes his point with Sylvie and makes you wish to know someone like him.  Evil characters such as Maurice are easy to hate and there are plenty of in-between characters with complicated traits that make you feel conflicted.

There’s a lot more to Life After Life, most notably Hitler’s treatment of Jews and the ultimate “What if?” question: Could the Holocaust have been prevented if Hitler had been killed before he became evil?

Ursula asks Ralph, “Don’t you wonder sometimes, if just one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean. If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in – I don’t know, say, a Quaker household – surely things would be different.”

And Ralph’s answer – “But nobody knows what’s going to happen.  And anyway he might have turned out just the same, Quakers or no Quakers. You might have to kill him instead of kidnapping him. Could you do that?  Could you kill a baby?” So in the end, there is still this dissatisfying answer about fate and stopping evil.

An open ending leaves many questions to this book. But friendship and love and happiness find a way to develop in even the most terrible scenarios of this story and I think this is the author’s message of hope.

Atkinson’s companion book to Life After Life is A God in Ruins. Read my review here.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!