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I read Janet Clare’s debut, Afterthought, early last month and it’s still fresh in my mind; the dramatics of the Australian landscape, the beautiful tension of the story, the edginess I felt for the characters – it’s all still with me. It’s a story that I think will stay with me for a long time. Clare’s novel of a forty-something woman’s journey to meet the father she never knew existed is available for free on Kindle this week [now $2.99], and that seemed like the perfect time to spotlight it here on Literary Inklings.
The author has kindly allowed me to feature an excerpt, and I instantly knew I wanted to share this bit from the book’s tenth chapter. The scenes with Lilly and her father, Cameron – an Australian adventurer who’s more than a little rough around the edges – spark off the page with their tension and subtle earnestness. Lilly’s interactions with everyone were fascinating to me, from the unsettling attraction she shares with her half-brother Grant to the simplicity of her connection with Grant’s daughter, Jen. But this particular moment was one of my favorite, as well as the scene just afterward — but you’ll have to get your Kindle copy to read it in full!
An excerpt from Afterthought, Chapter 10
| Did I want him to tell me he’d been in love with my mother? Well, it seemed he wasn’t, hadn’t been. And what difference would it make, anyway? What I really wanted was for him to care about me. And he couldn’t do that either.
We came to a stand of bloodwood trees and stopped, so welcoming to see an entire group of eucalyptus tossed by the wind. I never realized how much I missed the sight of trees. We gathered twigs and leaves and added them to our campfire for a sweet scent I thought might stay with me forever.
Cameron pulled gear from the cruiser and pointed to the red rock cliffs nearby. “There’s a cave in there that used to have crystal water.”
Jen grabbed her father’s hand. “Let’s go.”
“You, too, Lilly,” Grant said, with a nod toward the cave.
“It’s narrow,” Cameron said, “Watch yourselves.”
The description and warning didn’t make it very appealing, but Jen and Grant started in as I hesitated then caught up and followed. The opening was broad with ample room to stand upright, but it soon narrowed and the ceiling lowered. Quickly overcome with claustrophobia, I felt my throat tighten. It was dark and I couldn’t see Jen and Grant in front of me. It was too silent and not enough air. I felt myself panic.
“I can’t,” I said, turning around, not sure anyone heard me. I hadn’t gone far and once outside, relieved, limp with perspiration, I sat across from Cameron who was winding tent ropes in a neat pile and didn’t look up.
“There are some things I just don’t have to do,” I said, rubbing my clammy hands.
“Your mother went right in,” he said.
Good for her, I thought. “She was a lot younger when she was here,” I said.
“That must be it,” he said, not giving an inch.
Could my mother have been more daring than me? I changed the subject. “Was this an aborigine cave?” I asked.
“Everything was theirs,” he said, gesturing to take in the entire desert.
“I’d like to meet them.”
“It’s not a pretty sight,” he said. “They’re broken.”
“What do you mean?”
“By other people,” he said, and now he looked at me.
The way we all break, I thought. He got up and I watched his back as he walked with a smooth, easy gait, not quite John Wayne, but a definite amble. Without turning around he pointed to the sky and a lone eagle floating high on thermals.
“Wedged-tail,” he said. I looked up as the bird flew soundless in the fading light. I turned and stared at the cave, thinking about my mother and her bravery. Shit. I got up.
As I wrote in my review, “the novel achieves a uniquely observant contemplation of life’s challenges and the way our choices can affect its fragility. Beautifully rendered and engagingly paced, Afterthought is a novel I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.” I’m recommending Afterthought to readers who appreciate literature’s ability to fully explore the many dynamics of life. Read it, enjoy, and do come back to let me know your thoughts!
Synopsis: Afterthought takes us on a journey along the roughest outback track in Australia with Lilly, a forty-five year old New Yorker, her newly-found father, Cameron, rogue and legendary explorer, his son, Grant, highly desirable platypus professor, and Jen, Grant’s twenty-something Sartre-loving daughter. Lilly, smart and sensual, her own moral code waving in the wind, finds herself out of her element in a place where night comes on “like a door slamming shut,” her former husband, artist and general all-around drunk, never far from her mind as she recalls her life before being enveloped in sand and heat. This is a story of the power and destructiveness of secrets, of taboos and the thrill of transgression, of love lost and found and lost again; reminding us of the mistake of forgetting our good luck and the naiveté of assuming we are ever exactly where we think we should be in the world. Buy Afterthought for $2.99 for your Kindle until 4/5