In the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he’s prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn’t telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Tragedy isn’t what the McNamara family expected when they moved to New Zealand. For Martha, it was an escape. For her artist husband Kit, it was a dream. For their small twin boys, it was an adventure. For sixteen-year-old Sacha, it was the start of a nightmare.
They end up on the isolated east coast of the North Island, seemingly in the middle of a New Zealand tourism campaign. But their peaceful idyll is soon shattered as the choices Sacha makes lead the family down a path which threatens to destroy them all.
Martha finds herself facing a series of impossible decisions, each with devastating consequences for her family.
After the Fall is a gripping family drama that poses questions about how far you might go to protect your nearest and dearest. It’s a thought provoking read and had me living up to my blog name long past my bedtime on more than one occasion. The story begins with a young child Finn, falling from a balcony with the scene narrated through the eyes of his mother. The mystery is established immediately as we find out that Finn’s mother Martha has something to hide; she knows the truth about how he fell but will she confess? As five year old Finn is airlifted to hospital the story switches to flashback to tell the history of the McNamara family, their emigration to New Zealand and the events that lead to Finn’s fall.
The McNamara family consists of Martha and her husband Kit, Martha’s daughter Sacha and the twins Finn and Charlie. From the outside they look like the perfect family; Sacha is a talented musician, clever and popular at school. The twins are cute bundles of energy and life. Martha, an occupational therapist is close to her family and in love with the handsome and charming Kit. But scratch the surface and the picture isn’t quite so sunny; Kit has recently lost his well paid job and the family is under pressure as he tries to face his demons. As crisis hits, the family seek a new beginning in New Zealand but although their new life might seem like paradise, the tensions soon begin to grow again.
As the story unfolded my imagination was working overtime trying to guess Martha’s secret and as more details were revealed the possibilities multiplied! The bulk of the novel is told in flashbacks leading to the fall but interspersed with short chapters that take place in the hours immediately following the fall as Martha waits at the hospital for news of her son’s fate. As Finn’s life hung in the balance it took all of my willpower not to jump ahead to find out what the outcome would be making After the Fall an unputdownable read.
The characters in After the Fall are strikingly human and Norman has captured the complex array of emotions accompanying their move across the world with brilliant clarity. Martha is written very honestly and her voice kept my attention throughout the novel. I didn’t like everything she had to say and at times I completely disagreed with her but I respected her as a character and found myself with a lot of sympathy for her as I read. As a parent, I couldn’t help wondering what I’d do if faced with the situations Martha finds herself in and this novel is perfect for reading groups as there is so much to discuss ranging through topics of substance abuse and dependency, emigration and its impacts, parenting choices and the pursuit of a dream lifestyle.
The descriptions of New Zealand are wonderful and I really enjoyed Charity Norman’s writing style. After the Fall has just been chosen as one of Richard and Judy’s Spring Reads and I have no doubt that it will be a huge success this year. It is an excellent page-tuner of a read and had me gripped from start to finish. Charity Norman is definitely a name to watch in 2013 and I look forward to reading more from her.
After the Fall is out now in paperback and ebook formats.
I’d like to thank Sam at Allen and Unwin for sending me a review copy of this book.