AFTER

Claire Tristram, Author
Claire Tristram, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $20 (194p) ISBN 978-0-374-10390-3
Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4299-2282-1
Paperback - 231 pages - 978-0-7490-0694-5
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-312-42476-3
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In this tight first novel, Tristram skillfully ponders fidelity to one's self, spouse and identity in a post-9/11 world. A widow who has spent lots of television time talking about her husband's death at the hand of terrorists arranges to meet a married man at a rundown hotel, stepping into a veritable "film noir." By taking a Muslim lover on the anniversary of her husband's death, she hopes for catharsis, "to do something so unexpected, so clearly outside the role that she had been forced into by her circumstances!" The Muslim man quickly catches on and realizes "he was playing the role of a dead man. The thought fell over him as if he had discovered the truth of a great mystery and he wanted to weep." In and out of their hotel bedroom, the two hijacked lovers ground their physical acts with thoughtful reflections on true love and life. After a harsh, raw kiss, the widow tells the Muslim man, "Individuals are all the same, you know. Cut off from what they are. They are nothing at all. It's the context that matters. My husband was a Jew. Not a good Jew. But he gave up everything to acknowledge who he was. You are a Muslim. I am a widow of a Jew. That is who I am." This point is made several times in different ways over the course of the book, many times astutely, a few times improbably. After a purifying role reversal, the characters are reminded of who they are; the future is embraced. This book, raw like the characters' wounds, resonates long after the last sentence is read. (May)

Forecast: Tristram's original, up-to-the-minute take on the psychological fallout of living in an era of terrorism should strike a chord with readers and reviewers.

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