The prologue presents us with two of this story’s elements, one being the Almost Home Bar and Grill, and the other being JJ, the new girl who is about to start her first shift. One would assume after receiving this introduction that one or both will be the primary characters for the whole story. We learn just enough to want to know more.
Tara Yellen’s After Hours at the Almost Home begins on Super Bowl Sunday at the Almost Home. We meet the crew and a regular customer or two, stay after hours, and finish up before twenty-four hours have passed.
There’s JJ, and no one seems to understand why anyone would start her on the day of the Super Bowl. She spends most of her time defending her maturity, insisting she’s already graduated from school and pretending that getting high is old hat for her, despite the coughing of a newbie.
We meet Colleen, a widow, who thinks her fourteen-year-old daughter walks on water, when she has no idea what kind of trouble her little Lily desperately wants to get into. Then there’s Keith, the bartender, who is counting the hours until he and Marna can run off together - and Lena who has a thing for Denny, and so on and so on.
One might wonder how Yellen can make one night take up a whole book. The answer is flashbacks, and lots of them. We get a lot of backstory as the day crawls into night and drags into the wee hours.
Some people might enjoy a multi-character study that is light on plot, but this reader kept waiting for something to happen. While the characters do not come across as rich or deeply drawn, Yellen does effectively get inside the heads of some of the characters, taking us through their thought process, which feel perfectly credible and, at times, engaging. A web of relationships and drama exist, but somehow we are led to expect more than that. There are hints of storylines here and there, but most are never fully realized, explored, built up, and resolved.
Only one out of a few storylines pays off for the reader, whereas the rest meander without going anywhere, resulting in an unsatisfying ending for most characters involved. I didn’t sense an arc for most characters or their lives. This novel is more of a day in the life of a waitress. Maybe something happened the day after that.