The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
Adult – Contemporary
Published May 17th 2016 by Riverhead Books
I needed a few days after I read this book to decide if I liked it or not. I finished it and was invested throughout but I didn’t know if I liked it exactly. So I waited a few days and that’s when I realized what I couldn’t put my finger on before – I enjoyed this book but it was completely forgettable for me. It was a good summer read that I breezed through and then put down never to be thought of again, which is kind of a bummer personally but doesn’t make it a bad book at all for me.
The After Party follows two friends from their friendship in early childhood to their mid-twenties in a Houston suburb in 1957. Cece wants nothing more than what is expected of her, to be a mother and a wife and stay in her little corner of the world forever. She’s not exactly a revolutionary but she knows what she wants with her life and she admits that and doesn’t apologize for it. After her slightly traumatic childhood and clear abandonment issues (her mother died when she was in high school and her father left Texas for good) she craves stability. Her best friend Joan despises the restrictions put on her and strives to rebel against her path as much as possible. Cece has always stood by Joan, sometimes as her chaperone and other times as a true best friend. As Joan reaches an age where her rebellion is no longer considered cute, Cece begins to finally see life and Joan as they are and learns more about Joan along the way.
As people Cece and Joan are the worst but I liked them as characters and how they belonged in the story and in their setting. It’s extremely easy to read Cece’s choices as she’s settling but I don’t think that’s true. Her childhood was portrayed fantastically I thought and really got across the point that Cece never a had a household of her own growing up. She wanted that stability and the peace a real family offered her. She never broke the norms or restrictions put on her but she never wanted to. I think even in the most progressive of times Cece would make the same choices for her adult life – she knew what she wanted and that is just as empowering as rebellion. My biggest problem with her was that she couldn’t even fathom how Joan could be miserable. It’s like she spent all of her years of friendship treating Joan as a doll and never actually listened when she spoke. I never bought that she was supposed to be this incredibly intelligent woman who made decisions like a child at times, but that may just be something i never really understood about the times in that culture. She never understood that while her choices were valid for her those same choices would have been a tragedy for Joan.
As much as Cece’s immaturity bothered me, Joan was just as bad. She kept going on and on about how she wanted something different and to see the world and be where things actually happen. But she didn’t quite understand that you still had to work for it. No one ever made the connection that she wanted both worlds by having the her status in River Oaks translate to any city and no one ever called her out on this as much as I would have liked. She was unwilling to leave her father’s money behind and therefore all of her rebellion was mostly just to make a splash in the social scene with no actual end game. I think if she had an end game or a goal or any drive whatsoever I would have emphasized with her more.
I will say, I thought I saw the ending coming from a mile away but I was wrong and that was completely refreshing. I don’t want to give too much away but Cece’s choices all throughout were very immature and childish and it was nice to see the ending not play out in the same pattern.
“In the end, the details weren’t about beauty or status. They never had been, for me. They were about feeling at home in the world. And Joan hated these details. She thought my existence relentlessly tedious. What she couldn’t see was that the details were life. That was how you loved someone: every day, without fail, over and over.”
“He moved through the world like he owned a great big piece of it”
Probably not, but I really liked reading about a time and culture that I am pretty unfamiliar with and will definitely pick up other books by this author.