After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry, 4 Stars

I’m a sucker for a good memoir. I love them! And it doesn’t have to be a celebrity memoir or anything like that (although I’ve read some good celebrity memoirs too!). Memoirs just offer a snapshot into someone else’s life in such a raw way. Sure, the book is edited by a professional and I’m sure there are secrets and feelings that are held back, but for a memoir to be good, the author has to really expose their vulnerabilities.

I’m also a true crime fan. And this is a little bit harder to understand I suppose. Even saying “I’m a true crime fan” sounds a little callous, no? I think a lot of it is trying to figure out who committed a crime, and a lot of it is probably knowing what happened to someone else so that you can look at your own life and their life and be able to say, oh, well that will never happen to me because of X Y or Z. And it’s kind of a mainstream fascination to a point–how many people watch Dateline or 48 Hours Mysteries? Those shows have been on FOREVER!

After the Eclipse showed up as a Book of the Month Club selection this month, and from reading the description, it was right up my alley. And of course, it didn’t disappoint.

From the Publisher:

When Sarah Perry was twelve, she saw a partial eclipse of the sun, an event she took as a sign of good fortune for her and her mother, Crystal. But that brief moment of darkness ultimately foreshadowed a much larger one: two days later, Crystal was murdered in their home in rural Maine, just a few feet from Sarah’s bedroom.

The killer escaped unseen; it would take the police twelve years to find him, time in which Sarah grew into adulthood, struggling with abandonment, police interrogations, and the effort of rebuilding her life when so much had been lost. Through it all she would dream of the eventual trial, a conviction—all her questions finally answered. But after the trial, Sarah’s questions only grew. She wanted to understand her mother’s life, not just her final hours, and so she began a personal investigation, one that drew her back to Maine, taking her deep into the abiding darkness of a small American town.

Told in searing prose, After the Eclipse is a luminous memoir of uncomfortable truth and terrible beauty, an exquisite memorial for a mother stolen from her daughter, and a blazingly successful attempt to cast light on her life once more.

My Review:

After the Eclipse was a truly stunning book. I’m a similar age as the author, Sarah Perry, so as she wrote about her experiences as a child and as grew up, her age matched up fairly closely with my own at the time. I think for this reason, it was easier to imagine her childhood, even if her life was vastly different from my own.

In the memoir, Sarah tells the story of how she lost her mother at the age of 12. That alone would be fodder for a compelling story, but her mother, Crystal, was the victim of a violent crime and was murdered just feet away from Crystal’s room where she was frozen in terror, having been woken up by her mother’s screams.

As I read the book, my heart broke for Sarah and what she went through. She not only lost her mother and best friend violently, but was then passed around through her dysfuctional family because no one truly wanted the responsibility of a child after Crystal was gone. And of course, the whole time, we learn about the possible suspects and details of Crystal’s life.

The story was poignant, tragic and hard to read at times. But Sarah truly brought honor to her mother’s memory. We are all deeply flawed as humans, and she did expose some of those flaws that existed in her mother, while really preserving her memory as a beautiful woman and amazing mother. She truly exhibited her mothers (and her own) humanity in this beautifully written book.

And guess what, they do solve the mystery of who did it. Twelve long years after her mother’s murder, Sarah did find the answers she needed. I don’t think they provided complete closure, I don’t think that exists after such an experience. But I felt hopeful after reading the book that Sarah has found some peace.

Buy it now:


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