I want you to think about a time where you reflected on something… maybe it was a couple days after that something happened or maybe it was many years later. You know that eerie feeling you sometimes get–it’s not quite nostalgia, but it’s almost that feeling that your life isn’t really yours? It’s like you’re somehow a voyeur in your own memories… that’s what it’s like, almost, to read The Afterlife Road.
(Here’s a link to the vlog!)
I’m back with another Inkberry Books review and I’m very excited to share my thoughts. Author Brice Austin takes readers on seven relatively short journeys with various characters in The Afterlife Road. These are stories that, at first glance, may seem mundane–a guy who doesn’t want anything to do with the family business, mourning for a beloved family pet, or a girl who almost drowns while taking a pit stop during a bicycle race.
Austin is a talented author: he is descriptive and knows how to balance that with dialogue. Each of the stories are engaging, and even if some are a little heavier on the explanatory exposition, the dialogue and/or look into characters’ psyches help the reader stay curious about the plot.
But, what I perhaps like most about this collection is that the characters are very relatable and the stories make you think. For example, when reading the titular piece, “The Afterlife Road,” and the narrator reflects on how he was awkward in high school, you can feel his despair at having to do chin-ups in gym class. Or in “Love is like the Speed of Light,” many readers can empathize with the narrator when he talks about seeing his mom grow weaker with time. Finally, “The F.O.C.” is an excellent example of how it feels to want, so desperately to help someone you love, while struggling with wondering if you’re any help to them at all.
Austin puts you in the characters’ shoes and it’s so engaging because you want to know what will happen next. All the while, there’s this other feeling that’s difficult to describe while reading the collection, it reminded me of watching “The Twilight Zone.” Maybe that’s because instead of focusing on these big, monumental journeys, they focus on “characters’ day-to-day existences.” But at the same time, while the literal events in the stories are fairly pedestrian, the characters experience growth and develop understanding in ways that seem very personal.
It’s almost voyeuristic, we all become Toadette in “The Afterlife Road,” watching the characters as they struggle with joy and pain, confusion and clarity. This collection is deeply vulnerable, not in the same way as other pieces, where you may infer the author’s state of mind while writing. Instead, it’s almost as though Austin tapped into peoples fears–being replaced is one such fear that appears throughout the collection–prompting readers to then look beyond the characters and at themselves.
The book is excellent and unique for this reason alone. It’s engaging and fascinating because of the way Austin has taken the quotidian existence many of us face and force us to look at it from a new perspective. I highly recommend and think that its format of being a collection of short stories adds to its value, especially for those who want to get back into reading.
That’s all I’ve got for now! Be sure to look out for next week’s piece on The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little.
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