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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Year After Henry: A Novel

I thoroughly enjoyed Cathie Pelletier's first book, so I jumped on the opportunity to read her latest, A Year After Henry.

Henry died unexpectedly early one morning at the age of 41. He left behind a wife who was about to leave him after finding out about his affair with the local bartender; an older brother who always lived in Henry's shadow and still does, even a year after his death; a former mistress who moved on long before Henry died; a son who is struggling with who he is in the midst of all the emotional turmoil; and a small town who loved the larger-than-life man. As the one year anniversary approaches that will see a memorial service for Henry, everyone deals with grief in their own idiosyncratic ways.

Pelletier has this way of writing her characters as full manifestations of who they are. I read her books and I immediately feel as though I live in small-town New England and know all of my neighbors, all of whom just happen to be written about in this book. It's incredible, really, how deeply I feel I know the characters in her book, and that is a direct result of Pelletier's hand in the work. This being the second book of hers I have indulged in, I feel I can say with certainty that I really, really, really like her.

I have to say that I felt the most connected with Jeannie, Henry's widow in this book. I absolutely loved Henry's brother as well, but it was Jeannie that I felt was the most compelling character in this book. Her simple yet so deeply complicated relationship with her husband was enough to grab me. Jeannie found out about the affair much before Henry's death and was collecting evidence to divorce him in one fell swoop. He died right before she was planning on confronting him. She feels betrayed by his affair yet angry at Henry's seeming indifference to his health before he died. She still loves him, despite the pain and the betrayal, but she would kill him if he were alive now. She cares about Henry's family, but they drive her nuts. Trying to hold together her own immediate family is enough to drive anyone batty, but she does it. Watching Jeannie move through her own grief was beautiful.

Everything else in this novel was really pitch-perfect, and it was well worth the read. It also fit my mood as of late, which is a bit nostalgic and desirous of a simpler life. I could get that in their town. Perhaps I will move there?

Hard copy for purchase below.

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