Wow. This is a powerful book.
In 1994, Sarah Perry’s mother, Crystal, was murdered in their home while Sarah was only a room away. It was a brutality I can’t even fathom. 12-year-old Sarah was thrust into a world of fear, abandonment, and unspeakable grief.
More than a recounting of events, Sarah gives the reader the complete atmosphere of growing up in rural Maine, and the people of the small town of Bridgton that made up her world. She delves into the person her mother was, and what made her who she was. This memoir is an attempt to know her mother, from the perspective of a grown woman cognizant of her mother’s life choices, her anguish over on-again, off-again relationships, and her love for her daughter. This story is also Sarah’s journey to discover herself, as she was as a 12-year-old girl enduring unbelievable tragedy, and now as an adult understanding the whole picture of Crystal Perry as a person.
So many adults in Sarah’s life tried to help her cope with this horrible “thing that happened,” but many were misguided in their kindness, or too blind with grief to offer anything of value. The fear that still resides in Sarah is palpable. It’s easy, as a reader, to think “this is an event that happened, once, a long time ago,” but for Sarah, it’s every day of her life, and she brings that idea to the forefront. Her memoir is courageous, it’s honest, and never indulges in self-pity.
I appreciated Sarah’s candor. She acknowledges her faults, the mistakes all of us make as adolescents. She allows herself room to ask questions, to wonder about her mother’s motivations, the relationships she maintained with men and with her friends. She wonders about the fallacy of memory and about the unreliability of what you think you know about those close to you. The research is impeccable. Sarah refers to police transcripts, interviews, and personal remembrances, but this never reads like a sterile report; it’s like sitting with your best friend and listening to her tell you her story.
I dropped everything else I was reading when I started reading After the Eclipse. It was compelling and at the same time humbling. Sarah’s foray into her past took unbelievable courage, and this memoir is a testament to her strength. The kind of strength, I’m sure, she got from her mother.
After the Eclipse is available for pre-order and will be released on September 26, 2017.
Many thanks to Sarah Perry for the advance copy.