AFTER THE FIRE BY WILL HILL
“Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything – and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.
But there are lies behind Father John’s words.
Outside, there are different truths.
Then came the fire.”
So reads the jacket copy for After the Fire by London-based novelist Will Hill. It’s the most riveting 400 pages I’ve come across lately. I mean, my jaw was on the floor, tears were in my eyes. I have so many thoughts. Where do I begin?
I don’t want to spill all of my thoughts and spoil this novel, so for now I’ll just say: thank you, Will Hill! Thank you for this thought-provoking book and letting me get swept up in a story that I’ve never experienced. You nailed it. Your book gave me all the feels! And I’m sure anyone else who picks After the Fire will feel the same.
After the Fire, as Will points out in his author’s note, is inspired by the 1993 Waco siege, a fire that ended a 51-day standoff between the FBI and a cult known as the Branch Davidians. There is a wealth of resources that you can check out for more information on this event, but for a basic overview, feel free to consult my trusted friend Google. Heck, I’ll Google it for you. You want to read about this.
Will, since most of our readers weren’t even born when this took place, we’ll need to give them some time to catch up on their history.
So, you can tell, while I try to keep my blogs as light-hearted as possible, we’re dealing with some sensitive stuff here.
After the Fire is told from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old girl who survived and must come to grips with everything that happened both before and – you guessed it – after the fire. By the way, our leading lady shall remain nameless right now. Will, you made me wait 23 pages before revealing her name, and I’m going to keep my readers waiting as well. But trust me, guys, the reveal is amazing and totally worth the wait!
Alternating between her life before and after the events of the fire, we see our heroine wrestle with truths that she was taught versus what she believes to be true based on experience. Take a look at this passage:
“We’ve been told time and time again, in sermon after sermon and Proclamation after Proclamation, that we are safe inside the fences of the Base, because all the monsters are Outside. But the truth is exactly the opposite: the fences keep the real world out and the monsters inside with us.”
I mean, is there anything more chilling than this? Will, I know you got goosebumps when you penned those words, because I got goosebumps just by reading them. Like I said, chills.
Throughout the book, we see her come to grips with reality, love, loss, guilt, and forgiveness. We see her grow up in a matter of pages. I was angry for her, sad for her, and in the end, I was wishing the best for her. As if she were a real person. As if I could turn on the television and see her sitting down for an interview on the Today Show.
Will, you did THAT. And I don’t know how you did it. But she was depicted so brilliantly.
For those looking for the next book club pick, or for the librarian or teacher looking for a book to inspire great questions and discussion, this one is for you. For those who find cults fascinating (or even those who find them creepy), this one is for you. For those who have experienced tragedy themselves, this one is for you. Hope awaits you.
Will Hill (whose name it is always fun to say), I make an internet toast to you and your wonderful story! It inspires us to be brave. May your next novel bring us as many tears and as much madness and hope as this one! Cheers!
Your friend across the pond,
Buy After the Fire by Will Hill in-store or online!