After the Eclipse pulls the reader swiftly along on parallel tracks of mystery and elegy. Early on, Perry dispels any question of whether her mother hastened her own death through her choices in men or her behavior, but she withholds who actually killed her mother until almost the end. The chapters alternate between Perry’s mother’s life — beginning with a childhood characterized by neglect, alcoholism and violence and her escape at 15 into a marriage to Perry’s father that brought more of the same — and Perry’s own life after her mother’s death … It’s a rhythm that builds suspense, which in other hands might feel prurient, but Perry’s scrupulous research and painstaking rendering of her experiences make her a trustworthy guide through such emotionally charged terrain. She’s also a wonderful writer with an assured sense of when to zoom in to her body’s somatic response for a piercing immediacy and when to pull back to convey the measured perspective gained through the distance of time.
I’ve never read a better depiction of how a sudden, violent event rips through a human being’s apprehension of reality while, at the same time, some stubborn version of the self soldiers on, doing what it takes to survive … Mysteries remain, about her mother’s relationship to her murderer and, most painfully for Perry, everything of the evening leading up to the moment he walked in their door. She has no memory of what happened during that handful of hours, and most likely they have nothing to do with the crime itself. Their irretrievable absence gives After the Eclipse an eerie, heartbreaking power that it shares with the very best of true crime.
How do you make sense of a hard-working, devoted young mother being brutally killed while her daughter cowers in a nearby room? That’s the question Sarah Perry attempts to answer in her harrowing, haunting new memoir, After the Eclipse … Rather than recount her mother’s murder and its aftermath chronologically, Perry employs a more ambitious structure in the first half of her memoir. Chapters designated ‘Before’ alternate with ones from ‘After,’ establishing a counterpoint that increases the suspense of the narrative and illuminates more starkly the connections between the Sarah’s family and the town of Bridgton … After the Eclipse is a sensitive, searing and nuanced exploration of family ties torn asunder.