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After Story by Larissa Behrendt - Book Review

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Told over the course of a 10-day literary tour of England, After Story centres on the difficult relationship between a First Nations mother and daughter. After scoring a free ticket, ambitious lawyer, Jasmine, invites her easy-going mother to join her on the tour, hoping the time together will bring them closer.

With shades of Edina and Saffy, the two share cramped hotel accommodation, where there is little room to hide from their differences. Neat freak Jasmine is often frustrated by her mother’s untidy and disorganised ways and mum Della wants to be left in peace by her “worry wort” daughter.

But behind the everyday trials of this odd couple mother and daughter lie deeper issues. News reports of a child gone missing on Hampstead Heath stir up memories of Brittany, the sister and daughter who went missing and never returned. As the tour progresses, the news reports of the missing child become increasingly concerning and the relationship between Jasmine and Della is strained. Lurching between avoidance and confrontation, memories and secrets plague both women and the anguish of losing Brittany comes to the surface.

After Story is a very complex one, with so many issues to explore, such as the racism suffered by First Nations people, the importance of connection and family and the lingering effects of abuse. But the strongest theme for me was of trying to live a life in the aftermath of unimaginable loss. In this story, Della and Jasmine confront some difficult truths and long-held secrets are revealed. This brings about a new understanding between them and they go on to build a better relationship for themselves, their family and their community. While this is a tragic story in many ways, it shows how it is possible to find new connections and happiness, even after those you cherish are gone.

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