Monday, November 26, 2012

Aftermath by Ann McMan

Book:  Aftermath
Author:  Ann McMan
Publisher:  Bedazzled Ink Publishing

Note to readers from Salem West: Before it was even released, many followers of The Rainbow Reader wrote to me requesting a review of Aftermath by Ann McMan, who I married earlier this year. As much as I would love to climb on my bully pulpit to tell you what I think about her latest release, it's hard for me to maintain a fair and impartial position regarding anything she writes. So, I reached out to the respected author, Susan X. Meagher, and asked if she would step in and share her thoughts on this novel.  


Special Guest Reviewer,
Susan X. Meagher
Recently, my wife and I made a trip to Italy. I have not one drop of Italian blood, but I feel as comfortable there as I do in my own town. I’m not certain why it resonates with me, but I have a few guesses.

Italy is as steeped in Catholicism as I was as a child. The nineteen years I spent in Catholic school was a minor influence compared to how the faith was the backdrop of every aspect of my life—from Catholic newspapers, magazines and comic books to Catholic camp, Girl Scout troop and sports teams. It was so deeply infused that I didn’t notice until I left that environment that everything had been imprinted on an underlayment of Catholicism.

Italy is a bit like that. Catholicism is everywhere; the art, the architecture, the calendar, even the food.

What struck me during my recent trip was how different the Italian experience must be for someone who knows little or nothing about Catholicism.

Botticelli's The Trial of Moses
from the Sistine Chapel
One day, we were on a small tour, just six people—of the Sistine Chapel. For me, who spent countless hours in an almost bare, utilitarian church in a lower-middle class town in the Mid-west, looking at the exuberant art that covered the walls and ceilings was overwhelming. A Technicolor dream that delighted me in ways I can barely describe.

But the people we toured with that day had no frame of reference. They were Americans who’d never been to Europe and had no faith background. 

One of the men actually looked around, only vaguely interested, and said, “The Pope lives here, right?”

While I applaud people who try to get out there and take a peek at the rest of the world, I have to acknowledge that you’re not going to get a hell of a lot out of the Sistine Chapel if you have no context for the place. Clearly, you don’t have to be Catholic to love religious art. But it has to help—at least to get your feet wet.

I’d apply that same analogy to Aftermath, the eagerly awaited sequel to Jericho. A reader could pick up the book with no prior knowledge of Ann’s work and easily get into it. There’s no complicated backstory that requires notes and flowcharts. But I’d recommend a different, more pleasurable tack. 

I met Ann McMan this summer at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s conference in Minneapolis and decided I had to read Jericho, given that she and her spouse were both so quick, erudite and side-splittingly funny. But I got involved in my own work and soon that pledge escaped my short-term memory.

Recently, upon being asked to write this review, I decided I’d better get busy and catch up. Reviewing the sequel without having read the urtext seemed like an unwise shortcut.

I spent a few days (big book!) with Maddie, Syd, David, Michael, and a cast of characters large enough to make Cecil B. DeMille a bit jealous, and was delighted to see Ann’s wit, energy and charm vividly displayed through her words. When I finished, I truly understood why so many people quickly became vocal fans of her writing and also why the demand for a sequel was so high.

In Jericho, Ann created a world filled with unique characters who rather effortlessly worked their way into your heart. In Aftermath, she gives readers a chance to sit down and visit with the whole gang once again.

It was fun to experience the build-up and dramatic tension of Maddie and Syd coming together in Jericho, but being able to jump into the action in Aftermath with their relationship strong and true has its own rewards. In my view, the drive behind every good romance is the reader’s desire to have the characters build a lasting partnership. Aftermath allows the reader to see that partnership in action, and experience how a real love-match can guide a couple through the peaks and valleys of life. That’s something that is satisfying in a way that the “will they or won’t they” period can’t reach.

Aftermath showed clearly that Maddie and Syd have each other’s backs. They’ve become an anchor for so many people in the town of Jericho and beyond; showing by example how love and commitment can help a person grow to their fullest potential. That’s a wonderful message, and Ann McMan sells it with the zeal of a true believer.

Read Aftermath after you’ve read Jericho. Context is everything, and I’m confident you’ll agree that reading about the strength of Maddie and Syd’s pairing is significantly more satisfying once you’ve experienced the first flickers of their attraction for one another. Or as Nadine Odell might say, Jericho is the chicken-fried steak and Aftermath is the white gravy.

Coach Bum Phillips
They’re best enjoyed together.

I'm not able to assign a Rainbow Scale rating for Aftermath because I think it's sui generis--a work with unique characteristics, rendering it incomparable. 

To paraphrase what Bum Phillips once said about a stellar quarterback, 'Aftermath might not be in a class by itself, but whatever class it's in, it don't take long to call the role.'


  1. An absolutely spot on review. I even appreciated the contextual simile to the Sistine Chapel. (Not that I've visited Italy but I did spend twelve years in Catholic school.)

    1. Mary Anne - thanks for stopping by for a spell. How can a girl go wrong with AM, SXM, the Sistine Chapel, and Bum Phillips all wrapped up in one review? It's like a literary burrito with green chili sauce, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and a frosty beverage to wash it all down.

  2. Ditto, Salem! Can't remember the last time I read a lesbian book review that quoted Bum....

  3. Susan Meagher writing about Ann begs for a summer evening and a nice cocktail. Great job Guest Reviewer!You're a natural. The comparison was lovely and apropos. Both are multi-layered and richly textured experiences. No clue about Bum Phillips...

    Thanks, Barrett