Love grows after the rain in Karen White's appropriately named new novel After the Rain. This is a completely romantic story that is perfect reading during the holiday season. It is a sequel to White's very popular novel Falling Home and once again focuses on life in the small town of Walton, Georgia. All of White's special talents are on display as she crafts a fascinating plot, and creates indelible characters.
The focus of this story is Suzanne Paris, a young woman on the run from her past. Through a series of events she ends up in the town of Walton, and is immediately involved in the life of Joe Warner, mayor of the town. Joe is a widower with six children, the oldest being Maddie. Maddie is on the cusp of womanhood and needs a friendly soul to help her maneuver these treacherous paths. Suzanne slides into that slot naturally.
She also becomes romantically involved with Joe, and in some ways that is good while in others not so good. Suzanne has secrets in her past and their exposure could affect Joe's chances of being reelected Mayor. The longer Suzanne holds on to these "sins of the past" the greater the danger could be.
The uniqueness of Karen White's writing skills can best be defined by her ability to plunge her readers into the story immediately. There is no hesitation, no buildup, no prolonged explanations. As soon as you read the first words you are there. It is amazing how she does this but it happens time and time again, and it is especially true in After the Rain. You meet Suzanne and you are into her story.
White also incorporates the mystical into her tales. It is not totally overt but slowly permeates the plot and becomes a part of it. This is the case with Joe's deceased wife in After the Rain. She is not some ghost that haunts the characters but rather is a presence that many of them feel. When they do it is a subtle presence presented with care and respect.
Ms. White does have some flaws in her plotting. A "resolution" point at the end of the story feels fake and contrived. Maybe she felt it necessary to bring it all together but a more true to life resolution would have been much more effective.
Still overall this is a book to enjoy. It glorifies the joys of small town living and appreciates the values of a time fast fading. As long as Ms. White employs this style of writing her audience of readers should grow and grow.
After the Rain is published by NAL Accent. It contains 384 pages and sells for $15.00.