After the Race
Charles Reed doesn’t see a future for himself anywhere except on the track. That’s his golden ticket. He doesn’t see the point of school or fitting in, and his father, Wayne, surely isn’t going to be a role model there. Wayne hasn’t amounted to much so far. No longer able to be in the military from which he had derived his identity, Wayne has devolved into an abusive, unemployed alcoholic. His one gift is his ability to be charming and appear trustworthy, even though he isn’t. Wayne thought he had a future once, too, but his life hasn’t gone the way he wanted and what Wayne wants is the only thing that is important to him. Charles and his mom, Emily, have to try to break away from Wayne’s destructive gravitational pull if they want to succeed in their own lives, but Charles is just a kid.
After the Race hits you like a gut-wrenching fist plowing into your abdomen, leaving behind a haunting, poignant bruise. Jones is a truly gifted writer with a talent for engrossing descriptions and evocative emotions. He’s audacious and bold when he has Charles challenge the status quo, questioning the relevance of the public school system and the entirety of Christianity. Despite the overall air of desperation and loneliness, there are elements of humor that had me laughing out loud. This mixture of humor and pain gave the entire story an aching air of truth. Jones writes a detailed account of life with a neglectful alcoholic that surprised me with how well it echoed many of my own personal experiences. Conversations that Charles had with staff at his school brought back my own memories, which indicates that the dialogue itself was realistic as well.
The stewing emotional pit that the novel dug me down into doesn’t really lend itself to making me want to recommend it. After all, who would knowingly give someone else pain? However, this novel gives pain with a purpose. It’s eye-opening in its honesty of the degeneration of a family and its reminder that offering love might make all the difference. It also might not. Grab a box of tissues and survive the ride. It’s worth it.
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