When disaster strikes, Michael joins the disorientated throng queueing for the non-functioning phone lines, as well as for trains out of the city, conscious only of his own needs and the needs of those he loves (p86):
he thought of how he had failed to be of help to anyone – how … his one concern had been getting away from the city. He had spent most of his adult life performing the very tasks that were called for in this situation, yet he had only reacted, a numb, fearful refugee, like all the others, trying to get out.
Meanwhile Natasha, along with countless other American tourists, is stranded in paradise, pouring alcohol down her throat in a vain attempt to manage the uncertainty, the terror of not knowing whether her partner is alive or dead (p87):
She went out onto the veranda, aware of herself now as being drunk, feeling nothing good in it, no release of tension or anxiety, but only the amplification of her fear, the need to hold on to it – as if to let it go would be to tempt God: it would be when she relaxed into the belief that Faulk was safe that she could discover something awful had happened.
Yet, when the pair are eventually reunited, their anxiety doesn’t abate. In fact, it escalates. Initially, Michael feels Natasha, constantly tearful, is overreacting; then, that she is keeping something from him. As, indeed, she is, but it’s not the betrayal of their relationship that he suspects, but a violation so dreadful she finds herself withdrawing from the only people who might help her and thereby jeopardising their future happiness.
I first came across Richard Bausch through his short stories; “What Feels like the World", about a man watching his granddaughter dutifully practising a skill she is unlikely ever to master, one of my all-time favourites. So, although I hadn’t read any of his twelve other novels before, I knew this would be a treat. Before, During, After is about faith, fear and the disturbing aftermath of trauma. Thanks to Atlantic Books for my review copy.
For a couple of other novels I’ve read recently in which the events of 9/11 play a part, see my reviews of Academy Street and Andrew’s Brain. Have you read any other fiction that features this and/or do you have any 9/11 stories of your own?