Plot: The overall arch of the plot is intriguing and well-developed. It keeps the reader guessing until nearly the end. Certain minor plot points, e.g. the unlikely house photography job that pays $500 a week or Hat's flight at a pivotal moment in his career, are a stretch. The story ends abruptly in the past, providing answers to the questions raised in the opening chapter. However, the story feels unfinished. The author should consider ending with an "after" that shows Hat's future direction rather than leaving him bitter and rudderless.
Prose: The author's clever narrative, which switches between the present and the past, keeps the reader engaged, eager to learn how Hatley could have gone from a carefree young man to a convicted felon. The story flows smoothly, and the prose is solid.
Originality: An intriguing story with strong, unique characters, this book scores high on the originality scale.
Character Development: Hatley Chambers. the story's tragic hero, is a well-developed, likable character despite the stigma that surrounds him. Even though he is a convicted felon, the reader likes him, most of the time anyway, and because of that stays invested in his story. Secondary characters are also well-developed, particularly Vicki.
Blurb: An engaging and well-written story that entertains and keeps the reader guessing.
Date Submitted: March 01, 2017
5 Stars"After and Before" is the story of an individual trying to decide what to do with the life he's scored on the planet. The main character, Hatley Chambers, approaches the life project from an existentialist worldview. He is authentic and honest, but without much in the way of a rudder of purpose. In fact, Hatley thinks purpose is over-rated and that too much forward thinking causes us to miss the miracle in the present moments. Not mindfully looking up with full awareness of attention is a definite theme. Seerup's wordsmithing skills do an excellent job of displaying this concept of learning to see the transcendent sacredness in the mundane...a sacredness most of us miss in the daily grind.Another prominent theme involves the labeling we do of each other. Without getting into spoiling details, I'd say this book shows how this heartless, yet quick and efficient "you've gotta start somewhere" stereotype approach to judging others---unfortunately leaves many in the garbage pit of life.My only criticism involves a chronological flip with chapters not being on the same time-line. Some movies and other books have used this approach to create complexity which I personally find unnecessarily confusing. For continuity of the story and to improve my retention, I quickly reverted to reading every other chapter and then went back to the front of the book to read the alternate chapters in chronological order. In this way, I created a more easily understood (to my small brain) Part 1 and Part 2 organization of the book.If the reader puts the same effort into reading as this author obviously putting into the writing, you will find numerous other insightful and intriguing themes interwoven in this story. Overall, a very thought-provoking, awareness-opening, and especially conversation stimulating read. Daniel R. Retzer