From the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award, the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Rea Award for the Short Story: a gorgeously rendered, passionate account of a relationship threatened by secrets, set against the backdrop of national tragedy.
When Natasha, a talented young artist working as a congressional aide, meets Michael Faulk, an Episcopalian priest struggling with his faith, the stars seem to align. Although he is nearly two decades older, they discover in each other the happy yearning and exhilaration of lovers, and within months they are engaged. Shortly before their wedding, while Natasha is vacationing in Jamaica and Faulk is in New York attending the wedding of a family friend, the terrorist attacks of September 11 shatter the tranquillity of the nation’s summer. Alone in a state of abject terror, cut off from America and convinced that Faulk is dead, Natasha makes an error in judgment that leads to a private trauma of her own on the Caribbean shore. A few days later, she and Faulk are reunited, but the horror of that day and Natasha’s inability to speak of it inexorably divide their relationship into “before” and “after.” They move to Memphis and begin their new life together, but their marriage quickly descends into repression, anxiety, and suspicion.
In prose that is direct, exact, and lyrical, Richard Bausch plumbs the complexities of public and personal trauma, and the courage with which we learn to face them. Above all, Before, During, After is a love story, offering a penetrating and exquisite portrait of intimacy, of spiritual and physical longing, and of the secrets we convince ourselves to keep even as they threaten to destroy us. An unforgettable tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished storytellers.
About the Author
Richard Bausch is the author of twelve novels and eight volumes of short stories. He is a recipient of many awards, including the PEN/Malamud Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and, in 2012, the Rea Award for the Short Story. He is currently professor of English at Chapman University in Orange, California.
Praise for Before, During, After…
“Elegantly constructed . . . One of Richard Bausch’s many talents is the forthright ease with which he delivers his characters—and readers—to the gravest questions of love, faith, and ultimately God, even as he nimbly hides the answers in plain sight.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Scrupulous observation and straightforward storytelling . . . As he empathetically investigates his characters, Bausch uncovers thoughts and feelings as tangled and troubled as the world around them . . . Back stories are traced with Bausch’s customary deftness and delicacy, his protagonists placed within a carefully drawn web of relationships that further illuminate their personalities . . . Bausch has always professed a Chekhovian credo that quiet attention to the details is more truthful and revealing than grand gestures. The moving but tentative final scene keeps faith with that.”
“Intimate. Just as Sue Miller did in her 9/11 novel, The Lake Shore Limited, Bausch explores the way private tragedy is distorted and subsumed by national disaster. And as Roxane Gay did in her recent novel, An Untamed State, he juxtaposes an individual act of sexual violence against the broader violence of countries . . . The story effectively recreates the frustration of dealing with a victim in deep denial—and it’s a harrowing reminder of how the reverberations of those explosions traveled through the American psyche. For all the novel’s lovely description of romance ‘before,’ Bausch is even more insightful when he follows the corrosive effects of anxiety ‘after.’”
—The Washington Post
“Riveting . . . Thoughtfully crafted . . . Bausch portrays Faulk and Natasha with as much toughness as tenderness, a toughness which lends the intimate story an emotional weight that can bear the load of these larger historical events . . . Bausch has found a way to write about love and tragedy that is both particular and resonant, not lost in the sweep of history but enlarged by it.”
“Terrific . . . Humane and believable . . . [Bausch is] a master storyteller who appreciates subtleties most of us can’t see, much less write . . . Bausch has found a way to connect the optimism that died that day with the hopes and dreams that we take into our intimate relationships. They can collapse, too. And often we don’t even see it coming.”
—The Seattle Times
“Elegant prose . . . Keen insights . . . Bausch explores the intersections of private and public history, including the unexpected and often tragic ways that each can influence the other.”
“Bausch earns his subject matter, and proves he’s up to the challenge . . . by displaying the utmost care for his characters, employing the highest form of authorial omnipotence to show how external horrors reverberate in internal spaces . . . transcribing the instant of a pang of feeling in his character’s heart, in other words doing the work of literature . . . Masterful prose, in the service of a masterfully told story.”
—The Daily Beast
“Bausch makes it look easy . . . His people and situations feel real. They reflect our hopes and dreams and fears. He holds up a mirror with his portrayal of characters who resonate because they spark an old memory, conjure up the face of a forgotten friend, or otherwise ignite something in our consciousness.”
—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Skillfully crafted . . . Taut and restrained . . . Courageously tackles a difficult conundrum in fiction: how to fictionalize—that is, how to make art—out of unspeakable evil taken from life . . . Bausch is a powerful evocator.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Sublimely probing what it means to lose trust in one’s self and in those one loves, the masterful Bausch delicately ponders the consequences of devastating loss on both a grand and personal scale. A luscious, sweeping heartbreak of a novel.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Winner of everything from a PEN/Malamud Award to the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Bausch offers a twentieth work of fiction that blends private and public trauma to devastating effect.”
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
“Gorgeous, emotionally complex . . . Bausch’s narrative voice is patient, compassionate, and observant, noting the small details that anchor the story in a concrete, fully realized world . . . He never judges [his characters]. He is not interested in whether their human limitations His handling of 9/11 as a background is sensitive and deft. Before, During, After is a beautiful and tender novel about the personal consequences of a cataclysmic national event.”
—Jeanette Zwart, Shelf Awareness
“A tale of trust and loss . . . Bausch excels at capturing the mood of Americans in the days and weeks following 9/11—equal parts camaraderie and suspicion.”
“Authentic . . . compelling . . . Bausch has created flawed characters searching for the courage to move forward through uncertainty . . . Has the feel of a Tennessee Williams play.”
—Sally Bissell, Library Journal