After the End

After the End

Alex Kidwell

One of the things psychologists tell widows and widowers is that people who were in happy marriages are prone to have happy second marriages. Quinn O’Malley, the protagonist of this book, really has his doubts when his partner of ten years dies of cancer. Quinn has been putting one foot in front of the other for two years, but can’t even imagine going out with someone else, much less finding another happy relationship.

Quinn’s best friend and his wife are determined to drag Quinn out of his doldrums and force him back into the world. To that purpose, they introduce him to a series of men they think Quinn will like. As Quinn sees it, each date is even more ludicrous than the last. That is until he meets blind date and party planner Brady Banner. Brady doesn’t hustle him, nor does he make any demands. He takes his time getting to know comic book store owner Quinn and subtly envelopes Quinn into his world of food and quiet outings.

Before he knows it, Quinn confesses to Brady that he used to be a successful painter, but he quit after his partner died, mainly because too many memories linger at his studio of his partner’s long drawn out death. With the same finesse that he used in getting Quinn out of his cocoon and back into the world, Brady steers Quinn past the ghosts in his studio and into painting the art he loves.

Kidwell understands the stages of death and grieving, and uses them beautifully to guide readers through Quinn’s status. Although the book covers very little time in the lives of Quinn and Brady, readers understand how much Quinn was ready to progress and how willing Brady is to help him along.

This guiding and the acceptance of guidance becomes a seductive dance between the two men. They end up finding new ground for themselves as they gently put the past in the past and recognize how much they both look forward to a shared future. They both know if Quinn can stop feeling guilty about betraying his former partner, a shared future is possible.

Quinn is the steady, loyal person readers will instantly bond with. He is trying to climb out of his grieving, but doesn’t know how. After ten years with his partner, Quinn doesn’t know how to go about dating again and can’t get past the ghost of his partner standing at their doorway blocking him from a new life.

Outgoing, fun, imaginative Brady is just the man for Quinn because he innately knows how to get Quinn’s interest. He and his loud, happy family are just the bromide Quinn needs – and his family are the gregarious group readers will take to their hearts.

What permeates the story is hope. Kidwell tells readers who have lost loved ones that it is possible to keep living. One needn’t forget, one merely needs to move on. The secondary message is that it’s not wrong to want happiness after a long period of sadness.

After the End, more than anything, is the story of happy beginnings.