cover image After Elias

After Elias

Eddy Boudel Tan. Dundurn, $17.99 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-4597-4642-8

Tan’s intriguing if somewhat uneven debut revolves around a mysterious plane crash. A week before his dream wedding, Coen Caraway’s fiancé, Elias Santos, dies in a plane crash. Amid speculation by investigators that Elias, who was the plane’s copilot, might have intentionally crashed the plane, based on a recording from the cockpit that captures him saying “pronto dios” just before impact, Coen decides to celebrate Elias’s life at the Omeyocan Hotel, the same venue in Mexico—Elias’s home country—where they would have gotten married. Coen rationalizes: “The hotel is booked, as is the catering, the band, the staff.... Plus, I’m already here,” and he warns guests who do not believe in Elias’s innocence to stay away. Celebrating Elias’s life and moving on from his death involves Coen’s reckoning with the past, as family members remind him of Elias’s volatile, controlling behavior. Tan is at his best when he inhabits Coen’s point of view—unmoored by the loss of his love and desperately seeking answers—but the narrative suffers when characters wax philosophical and making gauzy observations about life: “regret nothing,” “Beauty is more beautiful when it’s fleeting,” and “Life is fleeting.” Despite its weak spots, the novel has plenty of rewards. (Sept.)