What Follows After
It’s 1962, and Scott and Gina Harrison have a “Ward and June Cleaver” kind of marriage. At least, that’s what they want people to believe. In reality, they are separated, coming together only for family functions so nobody will discover the truth. They have even included their two sons, Colt and Timmy, in the farce by asking them to lie along with them and pretend everything is normal.
After one year of the charade, 12-year-old Colt has had enough and decides to do something drastic. He and his six-year-old brother, Timmy, will run away from their Florida home to their aunt and uncle’s house in Georgia, giving his parents an ultimatum of sorts: Get back together, or they aren’t coming home. So, after their mother drops them off at school one morning, the boys take off and hop a bus to Georgia.
But something goes terribly wrong.
At a rest stop restaurant, Colt has to use the bathroom and Timmy resists being dragged along, instead begging to stay in the booth to watch the military vehicles that are making their way through town. Colt agrees, but when he comes back, Timmy is gone. After anxiously looking inside and outside of the restaurant for his brother, he learns that a waitress saw Timmy leave with an older gentleman she assumed was their father. But her description of the man is not of their dad.
This was definitely not in Colt’s plan. How can he face his parents and tell them he lost his brother?
"The plot itself is gripping, and, in my opinion, Walsh outdoes himself with this one. The characters are sympathetic, and I was quickly drawn into their tragic circumstances."
Back home, Scott and Gina are searching frantically for the boys, hoping they are just playing hooky from school or got distracted somewhere. When they are contacted by the FBI and informed of the events that transpired, they are devastated. Colt returns home, and an investigation begins into Timmy’s disappearance. While a kidnapping case usually takes precedence over all other cases, the entire country’s law enforcement personnel is currently otherwise occupied with the international crisis of a potential D-Day invasion of Cuba.
In spite of the world’s current critical state and the threat of a nuclear attack, Special Agent Victor Hammond is invested in the boys’ case and determined to find Timmy. He can only hope he is able to give the Harrisons the happy ending for which they are desperate.
Author Dan Walsh is known for his historical romance novels --- and, most recently, his contemporary marriage series co-authored with Dr. Gary Smalley. While WHAT FOLLOWS AFTER is set in the early ’60s, it is anything but a typical romance. Rather, Walsh’s latest release would better fit in the drama or even suspense category, as there is plenty of both to go around.
The plot itself is gripping, and, in my opinion, Walsh outdoes himself with this one. The characters are sympathetic, and I was quickly drawn into their tragic circumstances. Setting the story in the midst of a worldwide catastrophe was clever and informational, and a portion of the actual speech given by President Kennedy at that time is quoted, giving it an even more authentic feel.
There are a couple of subplots to keep things interesting, most notably the events surrounding the reason for the Harrisons’ separation. While certainly not “romantic” in content, it stays true to the romantic relationship quality Walsh typically includes in his stories. He weaves a beautiful tale of dysfunction and restoration, providing many tear-inducing moments, so keep the tissues handy. Another superb subplot involves Scott Harrison’s childhood housekeeper, a woman Scott thinks of as a second mother to him. This faith-filled prayer-warrior plays a role in how the ending unfolds.
Overall, WHAT FOLLOWS AFTER is a story likely to leave an impression on readers’ hearts, and the characters are ones that will stay with you long after the final page. Walsh has proven himself to be an outstanding novelist, and this is highly recommended reading.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on April 27, 2014