These words invoke a saucy set-up to any summertime read, but hearing them used to describe the narrative doesn’t lead you to think the book will be thought-provoking; or incredibly irritating.
Yet, The After Party by Anton DiSclafani was both thought-provoking
and incredibly irritating for me.
Upon opening The After Party, we’re dropped into the world of the socially elite living in River Oaks (still one of the top ten wealthiest neighborhoods in the country) in the mid-1950s. Our main characters are Joan Fortier and Cece Buchanan. Joan’s our It Girl, the Kim Kardashian of her day. Cece’s her loyal sidekick, or handmaiden as she’s called later in the novel.
Joan and Cece have been friends since grade school… though friendship seems an incorrect term for their relationship. Cece worships Joan and Joan appreciates Cece’s worship. The two are magnets for each other, and even though everyone they encounter can see the completely unhealthy relationship in which they reside, they stay connected.
Joan’s portrayed as the town’s socialite and unpredictable queen. But, at 25, her royalty is slipping because society dictated she’s of age to be married. I found Joan a little over-the-top but mostly, I appreciated Joan. She saw a system she could never beat as a woman in the 1950s and somehow manages to get out from under the judgmental, tyrannical eye of her fellow socialites.
For me, it’s Cece who is so annoying. Her infatuation with Joan infuriates me. But, the more I wonder how a fictional character can anger me so, the more I realize how like Cece I can be. I am loyal to a fault. There have been people in my life I should have cut off long before I actually said “goodbye”.
And like Cece, I still wonder about these people. Are they okay? Are they happy? Do they think of me at all?
It’s that odd self-gratifying/hardcore-loyalist combo that drives the story for me. Cece’s other friends, and her husband, cannot understand the hold Joan has on Cece. As I put myself in Cece’s shoes, I feel her resistance to letting go of Joan. There’s something so idealist and pure in her pursuit of making Joan whole; yearning for her friend to be entirely happy.
But, there’s also a point where no human can make another human fully happy. We’re broken creatures and at some point, we have to let go of those who are breaking us.
It’s this lesson I took away from The After Party. Many people will love this book. I can appreciate it, but I spent way too much time being irritated to love it. But, I also couldn’t stop reading it and was fully invested in every character. So… I’d venture to say it’s a “must” for your summer time list.