Book Review – The Year After by Ashley Warner

The Year After
Ashley Warner
File Size: 699 KB
Print Length: 351 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1489557822
Publisher: Ashley Warner (December 9, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

 “With unflinching honesty and unsinkable spirit, The Year After offers a rare and intimate portrait of trauma. …. the daily challenges of recovery from rape at the restless age of 24 are artfully interwoven with reflections from early childhood and twenty years beyond in the search for understanding so familiar to those who have wrestled with life-changing upheaval.”

That is part of the Amazon book description, and at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the story since I have been dealing with my own emotional trauma for the past few months, but I was impressed with the very professional query I received from the author. I was also impressed with the fact that she worked her way through the effects of the trauma from being raped and emerged a strong woman. I like to celebrate strong women.

The book, written in a journal style, is full of honesty and raw emotion: The things that those of us dealing with trauma wish we could say, but so many friends and relatives don’t want to hear. They love us, so they don’t want to be in the pain with us. They want us to be okay.

Traumatic events such as Warner experienced leave a wash of jumbled emotions in their wake, and people who have been victims of rape and assault feel those emotions at painfully deep levels. One of those jumbled emotions that is the hardest to deal with is anger. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process, and those who have been raped are grieving the loss of the life that was before.

Warner is clear about defining that line of demarcation between life before and life after a traumatic experience, and she validates those surges of anger that can leave one screaming and breathless. It is okay, even necessary, to feel those emotions and deal with them. This “before and after” is just as true for those grieving a loss from death. When we have suffered a great loss, we cannot go back to before. We just have to learn how to live after, and insights on how to do that come through strong in the telling of Warner’s story, without some of the platitudes so often thrown to a grieving person like life preservers.

I highlighted a number of passages that resonated with me as I was reading, and I’m sure they would be helpful to others who are walking the path of grief. In response to people who ask how she was doing often Warner would say, “I’m hanging in there.” Or, “I’m doing okay.” She then wrote, “Doing ‘okay’ meant only that I was getting up each morning and clawing my way through the day without collapsing.”

How the author clawed her way through that first year, and beyond, is a beautifully written inspirational story. While parts of it are so painfully hard to read for the brutal honesty and dark emotions, it is a must read for anyone who is trying to find a life after

Ashley Warner is a writer and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City.

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