After You've Gone
by Jeffrey Lent
(Atlantic Monthly Press, $24) ISBN 978-0871138941
****
As implied in the title, Jeffrey Lent's fourth novel, After You've Gone deals with loss in many forms, and while this might lend itself to a somber tone, Lent's lyrical writing never lets the story become morose.

This moving novel is a beautifully written, intimate story that floats through the life of retired college professor Henry Dorn, which includes an absentee father and bitter mother, deaths of a wife and a son, and new-found passions in a used cello, a used woman, and the city of Amsterdam.

The story is teased out in flashbacks that slowly and indirectly give the reader insight into Henry's present state of aimlessness as he searches for his past in the city of his relatives. We learn about his hardscrabble life in a fishing village in Nova Scotia, his father's idiosyncratic artistry, his son's post WWI morphine addiction, the beautiful woman who rejuvenates his life, and his ultimate quest to create a good life as he tries to piece together a better understanding of where he comes from and who he is.

The ending that will cause some readers to exclaim that the book cannot possibly end this way, and others to say that the author gave the characters the only ending that would allow them any peace or happiness, will be a good discussion topic for book group

--Laura Johnson


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