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  • Mandy McHugh

Afterland, Lauren Beukes: A Review

I'm a fan of Lauren Beukes honest and authentic writing style, so I was thrilled to receive Afterland. Wonderful title, striking cover, and ripped-from-the-headlines synopsis, I couldn't wait to start this one.

In a world recovering from a deadly virus that wipes out the majority of the male population, Cole is just trying to protect her son, Miles. With the help of her sister, Billie, they agree to escape the detention center and try to make arrangements to make it back to South Africa, but on the night of their escape, plans deteriorate, and the group is forced to improvise. Cole will stop at nothing to protect Miles, and Billie will stop at nothing to apprehend her nephew and pay debts to some dangerous people. Afterland, at its heart, is a story of hope, absolution, and rehabilitation. In the literal sense, the world is trying to rebuild after Manfall, and the parallels between this and our current situation was eerily prescient. Beukes touches on pandemic, climate change, economic disaster, and BLM, and while terrifying in its accuracy, there is an underlining hope that resonates in her characters that I found endearing and compelling. What's more is that since the characters are from Joburg, we get a perspective that is not distinctly American, with commentary on the health care system, police force, and government treatment, which really struck a chord with me when so many voices are fighting to be heard. On top of that, each character struggles with their own personal demons. Perhaps most endearing was the dynamic between Cole and Miles and watching how he begins to shape his own personality, how it conflicts with both his mother's interests and the government's interests, and how even though survival is key, life has to be about more than just surviving. They search for purpose and forgiveness and soothe sore spots and regrets on their journey, but at the end of the day, they are still their own people who need to come together through the struggle. Beukes' writing is genuine; I especially appreciated the Vice interlude and the effortlessness she gave to vernacular in her dialogue. It is not easy to incorporate slang without sounding cheesy or forced, but Beukes is a talented writer with command of her craft, which makes for an enjoyable read. Overall, Afterland is a timely, gripping, deeply-moving read that pokes at the heart of our very existence. I'd recommend to anyone who loved A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World or Light of my Life (on Amazon Prime) or anyone looking for a pandemic read with REALLY on-the-nose issues and gritty characters. Big thanks to Mulholland and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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