However messy this sophomore effort may get in its middle, by the end, when Joan’s secret is revealed, the novel regains its power by suggesting how a mid-20th-century woman’s desires and needs could trap her. Joan, much loved and much criticized by Cece, emerges as a spectacularly tragic figure. The After Party reads like a postmortem of more than just two women’s lives and promises very good things to come from DiSclafani.
If The Big Secret, when it comes, is a letdown, the contrasting connective tissue DiSclafani weaves between Cece and Joan — their scions, mothers, choices and men — is the work of a compelling writer and keeps our attention to the end.
DiSclafani excels at building suspense and has a gift for revealing private worlds through unexpected, telling details...As things progress, [protagonist] Cece seems more like an infatuated stalker than a devoted friend. Perhaps that’s the point, but we never get enough of Cece’s inner life to fully understand it. DiSclafani dangles suggestions about the sexual undertone of Cece’s compulsion and the notion that within a friendship 'one woman always needs the other woman less.' A deeper exploration of these intriguing motivations would have made the book all the richer.