Click here to read reviewer Patricia Denehy's take on Aftermath.
Brian Shawver has crafted an intricate tale of one man’s dark night of the soul and a mother’s reclaiming her son through a tragedy that leaves him forever damaged. Casey Fielding, the night manager of O’Ruddy’s Restaurant in East Breed, Pennsylvania, literally works by the book.
A fight breaks out in O’Ruddy’s parking lot one night, the second in as many weeks, between the lower-income townies and the wealthy prep school boys. When the melee is over, Colin Chase lies on the ground, blood leaking from his head. He recovers, but with the mentality of a four-year old.
Fielding neglected to call the police in time and the finger of guilt is pointed at him. He is fired for incompetence, his employers publicly embarrassed; his girlfriend treats him with even more disdain than usual; and the local paper laments Casey’s violation of the Good Samaritan Act. Confused and demoralized, Casey spends his days in self-doubt: “He had to mine the depths to deal with this season of his life.”
Another part of the unfolding drama centers on Colin’s home: his parents, Lea and Geoffrey Chase, adjust to their son’s damaged existence, the handsome, vigorous young athlete reduced to the behavior of a toddler. They battle for acceptance in radically changed circumstances: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
After the drama, the survivors are left with the results, press and cameras no longer gathered at Colin’s home. Geoffrey adjusts with great difficulty, attempting to deny the obvious, but Lea Chase becomes obsessed with tracking down the truth of that terrible night. She sorts through her son’s jumbled belongings, the arcane details of his life, hoping for clues.
Casey is caught up as well, investigating local rumors. Both Lea and Fielding uncover information that will significantly alter the dynamic of the fateful beating in the parking lot of O’Ruddy’s, the brutal simplicity of tragedy tempered with an unfolding moral dilemma - a poignant reminder that nothing is ever as it seems.
For Fielding, an ordinary guy caught up in an event not of his making, Lea and a girl named Jenny, the world has tilted subtly on its axis. Lea regains a damaged, if purified son, Jenny is vaguely satisfied by her part in the tragedy, and Casey clings to the brittle memory of an icy winter night, the start of an inevitable slide into a difficult future in an indifferent world.
Shawver beautifully translates the human condition into a drama of the aftermath of a violent act, skillfully mining the long term residue of ill-considered actions, his characters the damaged, the bereaved and the unfairly judged.