Reviews for After Annie : a novel

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

When the title character dies suddenly of an aneurysm, her husband, four children and best friend must deal with their grief and find a path forward. Annie Fonzheimer grew up in small-town Greengrass, Pennsylvania, and never left. She married “too fast and too young” when she got pregnant by local boy Bill Brown, a plumber by trade. Annie works long hours as an aide at a nursing home and tends to her four children, ages 6 to 13, in a small house that belongs to her mother-in-law, the prickly Dora. But Annie, high-spirited and much adored, is content with her “lovely reliable” life, even if it’s not exactly what she’d expected. She’s a vibrant presence in this novel, despite getting bumped off in the first sentence. Quindlen weaves Annie’s backstory with an account of her survivors, who suffer mightily in her absence. Without her mother, eldest child Ali watches over her younger siblings and navigates a friendship with a girl who harbors a disturbing secret. Best pal Annemarie, whom Annie helped save from drug addition, must decide if she can persevere without her friend’s steadying hand. And Bill, who wasn’t sure about marrying Annie at first—and then found he couldn’t imagine life without her—must sort out his feelings for a woman he was involved with before his wife. Quindlen, whose own mother died when she was 19, is good at this sort of domestic drama, elevating material that might seem over-familiar, even maudlin in other hands; the well-drawn characters and sharp observations keep the reader engaged. “Maybe grief was like homesickness,” Bill muses at one point, “something that wasn’t just about a specific person, but about losing that feeling that you were where you belonged….” Actually, not a lot happens until the novel’s final section, in which, arguably, too much happens. While Quindlen may lean too hard on the hope motif at the end, this is an emotionally satisfying, absorbing story. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.