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After Her: A Novel [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Joyce Maynard
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Sep 2013
It's the summer of 1979, and a dry, hot, northern California school vacation stretches ahead for Rachel and her younger sister Patty - the daughters a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome and chronically unfaithful detective father who loves to make women happy, and the mother whose heart he broke. Left to their own devices, the inseparable sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the life of the mysterious neighbor who moves in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that rises up behind their house. When young women start showing up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is charged with finding the man responsible, known as The Sunset Strangler. Seeing her father's life slowly unravel when he fails to stop the murders, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet: setting herself up as bait to catch the killer, with consequences that will destroy her father's career and alter the lives of everyone she loves. It is not until thirty years later that Rachel, who has never given up hope of vindicating her father, finally smokes out the killer, bringing her back to the territory of her childhood, and uncovering a long-buried family secret. As with her novel, Labor Day, Maynard's newest work is part thriller, part love story, Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case that terrorized Marin County in the late seventies, her tale delves deep into the alternately thrilling and terrifying landscape of a young girl's first explorations of adult sexuality and the loss of innocence, the bond between sisters - and into a daughter's tender but damaged relationship with her father, and what it is to finally trust a man.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (4 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006229184X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062291844
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 859,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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“[Maynard] weav(es) a knotty tale of family secrets, told in the alternating voices of her likable main characters.” (Entertainment Weekly on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

The Good Daughters shows Maynard’s strengths once again—particularly in vivid descriptions of farm life, geographies, and relationships of all kinds. Passions and psychological changes in a character over time ring most true.” (Providence Journal)

“Absorbing.” (More Magazine on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“An evocative story . . . [Maynard] consistently brings emotional authenticity to the long arc of her characters’ lives and to the joy and loss they experience. A profoundly moving chronicle of the primacy of family connection.” (Booklist on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“An impressive writer...with a fine sense of time, of place, of humor.” (Buffalo News on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“Exquisite . . . . [A] beautifully written book.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review) on THE GOOD DAUGTHERS)

“In addition to being a beautiful and engaging story, Maynard deftly captures Dana’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality in the midst of her family’s instability. And her relationship with Clarice is one of the strongest in the novel. Highly recommended. ” ( on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“Maynard is a clever storyteller.” (Seattle Times on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“Maynard’s spare prose packs a rich emotional punch...a can’t put-it-down mystery.” (People on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“Vividly rendered.” (Tampa Tribune on THE GOOD DAUGHTERS)

“[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience.” (People (Four Stars))

“an uplifting story told by a boy who is just beginning to understand what life is all about.” (St. Petersburg Times)

Labor Day is suffused with tenderness, dreaminess and love....first and foremost a page-turner...[it] puts back together the world that it definitely need to get a box of tissues.” (Newsday)

“Dazzling.” (Jules Siegel, San Francisco Chronicle on At Home in the World)

“It is a testament to Maynard’s skill that she makes this ominous setup into a convincing and poignant coming-of-age tale.” (Washington Post)

“Part family reminiscence, part girl detective story, After Her combines the intimacy of one teen’s coming-of-age with the suspense of a serial killer mystery. With warmth and redeeming humor, Joyce Maynard delivers the terror and confusion of adolescence.” (Stewart O'Nan, author of Snow Angels and The Speed Queen)

“Joyce Maynard’s latest novel, After Her, is a suspenseful page-turning mystery, but even more compelling is her memorable portrait of a thirteen-year-old girl and the complicated world she shares with her sister; the intricate details of their life are sometimes hilarious, often heartbreaking, and always endearing.” (Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life on AFTER HER)

“Passionate, profound, and as stunning as a sparking live wire coming slowly and irrevocably toward you, Maynard’s latest is nothing short of a masterpiece.” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow)

“Though you will be tempted, try not to turn the pages of this complex thriller too fast: you will miss a tender elegy, an evocative coming-of-age story, and a tribute to the enduring bonds of sisterhood.” (Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love on AFTER HER)

“An affecting portrait of the relationship between a father and his daughters.” (Booklist on AFTER HER)

“Maynard writes great characters and craft a story that will not let you go.” ( on AFTER HER)

“[F]ar from a simple whodunit... [Maynard] deftly conveys that we are never truly safe, but that we can’t let fear stand in the way of our becoming who we want to be.” (Real Simple on AFTER HER)

“Veteran novelist Joyce Maynard has returned with a coming of age story woven into a serial killer investigation that is both evocative and captivating.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer on AFTER HER)

“Loosely based on the “Trailside Killer” slayings of the 1970s, the story jumps from history into a many-layered exploration of sibling bonds and innocence.” (San Jose Mercury News on AFTER HER)

After Her is a masterful piece of storytelling with bits of humor to offset the suspenseful emotions.” (Shelf Awareness on AFTER HER)

“After Her is an excellent novel, dealing deftly and tenderly with a young girl’s coming of age and loss of innocence, presenting us with characters as great and as flawed as the people we see every day. Here we have a great author writing at the top of her form.” ( on AFTER HER)

About the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of seven previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, and The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. Maynard's bestselling novel Labor Day was adapted for film by Academy Award-nominated director Jason Reitman and stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Maynard makes her home in California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been good. 8 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story started out very well and promised an interesting read. It's a story about relationships. Another coming of age story. Another teenager trying to do good and messing up the lives of those around her. Predictable, drawn out. Very repetitive. The late 1970s reads more to me like the early 1960s especially the TV thing. It wasn't totally utterly boring, but it goes no where fast.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  216 reviews
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars " I was always looking for excitement until I found some..." 15 July 2013
By K. Corn - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
While this novel has been described as a combination of murder mystery and coming-of-age tale, I found it to be primarily a look into family dynamics, especially the relationship between two teen sisters, Rachel and Patty.

Although there is a killer targeting young women in Marin County, I felt that the ongoing series of murders never took center stage. Instead, the sisters' enduring connection shone most brightly. In childhood, they seemed almost joined at the the hip. Inevitably, they had to forge their own identities, with some tense and rocky moments along the way. But ultimately the bond held.

The murders in this novel are loosely based on those of a real-life serial killer, nicknamed the Trailside Killer. Maynard was inspired to write this novel after meeting two sisters whose father had been head of Marin Country Homicide when the Trailside Killer was at large. They were generous enough to share not only the details of the murder investigation with Maynard but also those of their childhood in Marin Country. Perhaps that is why both Anthony Torricelli, the fictional detective in After Her, and the life of his family in the late 1970s, seems so believable.

A "heads up" for potential readers: while there are indeed descriptions (but not very graphic) of women stalked and murdered by a serial killer - and the desperate hunt to catch that killer - those expecting a breakneck series of suspenseful events are likely to be disappointed. Yes, there are two pivotal and violent events which are riveting. But while reading most of the book, I felt the murders took a lesser role to the relationship between Rachel, her sister and their parents.

One of this book's strong points is the portrayal of teen lives in 1979, when it was still considered relatively safe to roam the streets and woods near home. Since events are told from Rachel's point of view, she is naturally at the heart of the book. Maynard is skilled in depicting even minor characters, from Rachel's unreliable high school friends to her first boyfriend and their awkward sexual encounters.

Then there are Rachel's parents. Her depression-prone mother. Her father, so obsessed with finding the man behind the murders, is portrayed so sharply that his sense of helplessness, his growing pain, made me feel compassion for this very flawed man. Although the first murder hits hard, every subsequent murder takes a greater toll - and breaks his spirit that much more. He is so determined to find the killer that he becomes an increasingly distant husband and father.

Time for a confession: I'm a fan of the author and have read every single book she has written. I always look forward to her next one. So I don't have the perspective of a first-time reader of the author. I'd be interested in reactions from those who are reading After Her before any of Maynard's other books.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Who Cried Wolf 11 Aug 2013
By Mary Lins - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In Joyce Maynard's new novel, "After Her", first person narrator Rachel Torricelli recounts the "tween" life she and her younger sister, Patty, share just north of San Francisco, with their divorced and distant mother and their pop-in-and-out father, Tony, a Marin County detective. Rachel and Patty are precocious yet innocent loners who find interesting and inventive ways to entertain themselves since their mother can't afford TV. At the beginning of the summer of 1979 several young women are murdered on the mountain right behind their home; the mountain that they regularly play on. Their father is the detective on the case and they want to help him catch the murderer; Rachel has a plan.

Maynard does a wonderful job of telling the story from the point of view of a young girl during that strange and confusing time between childhood and womanhood. Her setting of the 70s is wonderfully evocative of so much that I remember of that time; music from The Carpenters to Led Zeppelin, movies, clothes (designer jeans were just coming on market), TV shows, 8-tracks, early VCRs; the song "My Sharona" proves chillingly apt.

In the middle of the novel the story started to drag and become repetitive and I almost stopped. I'm glad I didn't though, because it soon picked up the pace and twists I had not foreseen were revealed.

Though this is about a young girl, I would not recommend it for a juvenile audience as there are detailed descriptions of rape, murder and sex that I would deem inappropriate for younger readers.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this Book! 23 Aug 2013
By Wendy Lapides - Published on
Loved this book!
Joyce Maynard has a gift for smoothly combining genres, a rare gift indeed. After Her is the story of the relationship between two young sisters and their often absent police detective father, whom they idolize. Told from the main character's adult perspective of looking back at the time when her Marin County town was in the grips of a serial killer, this book offers the reader the best of both worlds -- a compelling story of love and loyalty and a suspenseful mystery that will keep you guessing until the last page.
I bought this book to take on my vacation, but finished it before I'd even started packing - it's that good!
50 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Drawn-out, Repetitive, Boring 9 July 2013
By Olga Bezhanova - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This could have been a tolerable 20-page short story, yet it was dragged out to make an incredibly boring 350+-page novel. The writer seems to have been copy-pasting expressions, sentences, paragraphs and even entire scenes time and again just to fill up space. And the scenes that get repeated dozens of times are extremely trivial.

Just to give a couple of examples, we hear time after boring time that Rachel finds hanging out with Alison boring compared to spending time with her sister. And then we hear it again. And again. This is obviously not a hugely complex idea, so I don't know why the author decided to hammer it in so many times. The narrator worries that she isn't getting her period. And worries. And worries some more. In the exact same words, she reiterates her worry dozens of times. And what do you think happens eventually? Yes, she gets her period. Which was as easy to predict as absolutely everything else in this mind-numbingly boring joke of a novel.

The character development in AFTER HER is non-existent. At 43, Rachel is exactly as she was at 13. Thirty years passed by without helping her gain any intelligence or even a modicum of self-awareness. For somebody so obsessed with narrating the most trivial details of her family history, Rachel is signally incapable of analyzing what happens in that family or why.

The so-called mystery that organizes the boring plot of this miserable excuse of a novel is based on one improbability after another. Nothing makes sense, and if you are hoping for some big revelation in the end, then stop. The ending is just as mundane, boring and repetitive as the rest of the book.

I considered dropping this novel many times but I just needed to make absolutely sure that I wasn't being unfair to it. I also found it hard to believe that anybody would write or publish a book that doesn't even attempt to say anything interesting. When I reached the last page, I realized that my hope was misplaced. This is, indeed, a completely impotent, useless book that doesn't even try to make sense.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Engaging 18 Aug 2013
By Richard B. Schwartz - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First off, this is not a mystery/suspense novel per se. It is a mainstream novel about two sisters whose father investigates a serial killer case. The focus of the novel is the maturation of the sisters and their relationship. Set in Marin County, it is based on an actual serial killer case from the 1970's, but it significantly alters some of the key details of the various stories.

Backstory: one of the two sisters whose stories serve as the basis for the chief plot arc of the novel walked into one of Joyce Maynard's writing seminars (Maynard has lived in Marin County for nearly two decades and become interested in the local history). Eventually she tells JM the two sisters' personal story and they permit her to use it as the outline of her novel. Their much-beloved father did investigate the actual case but died before the killer was found. The stress of the case, it was felt, contributed to his deteriorating medical condition.

The Maynard novel is narrated by the eldest sister, now in her forties. She transports us to the bay area of her adolescence, where she is on the brink of puberty. She and her sister spend their time in the woods and on the trails of Mt. Tamalpais, where they encounter natural beauty, a suspicious wrecked truck, people having sex and, eventually, the evil perpetrated by a serial killer whose victims are found in the area.

Both girls are very close to their charismatic father. He is divorced from their mother (with whom they live) and they wish that they could see him more frequently. While he takes them out for spaghetti marinara and tiramisu at Marin Joe's, their mother stays in her room, where she smokes heavily and reads library books. The girls are left to shift for themselves--which they do, happily, enjoying, e.g. `drive in nights' where they spread blankets in back yards and watch the silent television sets of their neighbors.

The younger sister, Patty, aspires to be a professional basketball player; the older sister, Rachel, wants to become a writer. This all may sound a bit familiar to readers of Joyce Maynard's memoir, At Home in the World. Her relationship with her sister was not as close as the relationship here, but her relationship with her mother and father (who eventually divorced but remained interesting and, in their way, attractive people) mirrors, in outline, the situation here. Joyce, of course, also aspired to be a writer.

I will not spoil the plot by revealing what happens (a great deal of it in the novel's closing chapters), but I will say that the novel is quite effective. The setting is evoked very nicely, as is the relationship between the sisters and their relationship with their father. This constitutes the thrust of the novel; we hear relatively little about the investigation of the serial killer case (the father wishes to maintain his daughters' innocence in that regard). The coming-of-age elements of the story receive a great deal of attention and are likely to be of greater interest to women readers than to men.

The characters are interesting, the plot very nicely executed. I think a little too much happens a little too quickly at the end and I would be interested in hearing from other readers with regard to this aspect of the book. Joyce Maynard is a skilled writer and this is an interesting novel. If you have not encountered her before, begin with her memoir, At Home in the World.

I would also recommend that you go to Joyce Maynard's website ([...] and check out the short film concerning the novel's backstory. You will there see the two sisters whose story serves as the backdrop for the novel. The manner in which they relate to one another conveys a sense of the nature of the novel itself. You also see Mt. Tamalpais and some of its trails. It is all interesting and helpful and complements the reading of the novel.
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