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Natasha works as a senator's aide, Michael an Episcopal priest both are unsatisfied with their jobs and unlucky in love. The two met at a dinner party and despite a sixteen year age gap and enough baggage to fill two dump trucks, their love burned fast and hot. They set a fall wedding and believed Happily ever after was finally theirs. Then came the morning of September 11th, 2001. Natasha drank as she watched in horror the events unfold on television. She assumes Michael has died in the collapse of the Twin Towers. (And she continues to drink.) Swirling in her own personal, intoxicated hell she allows a man to kiss her. Later that night, on an abandoned stretch of beach, the man raped her. She tells no-one the truth.
This is not a glass slipper fairy-tale love story. Before, During, After is thick, dark and frustratingly slow (during the "After" section). I realize the author wanted to convey frustration. He takes the reader to the edge of slinging the book across the room. I am a patient person and I found myself wanting to scream "get on with it." The characters themselves were frustrating for me. It didn't seem the author cared very much for them and I didn't either. Yes, I felt compassion for Natasha. First, for the loss of her parents. Then later because of the rape. I felt a different kind of compassion for Michael because of his upbringing. But, my compassion was quickly outweighed by irritation and aggravation. Michael and Natasha are supposed to be middle-aged, educated people. But, they certainly do not act, talk or think as such.
The characters had enough to deal with in 368 pages without adding 9-11 as the backdrop. Sadly it felt like the events of 9-11 were used to prop up a weak story. Also, the cover art is obscene and offensive. It appears to be imitating the haunting images of people falling and jumping from the Twin Towers. The book is available with an alternate cover. I say pick this one up at the library.
The cover pictured below is still dramatic and haunting without being offensive.
Different Cover for Before, During, After