Friday, 20 November 2015

Before The Storm by Diane Chamberlain

After a fire starts in a local church, with a youth group trapped inside, an unlikely hero emerges in the form of Andy, a fifteen year old outcast of the town. Being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder means he thinks differently to how you or I would, and so he finds an unlikely way for the occupants and himself to exit the building engulfed in flames. At first he is put on a pedestal, whilst lives were lost in the fire many were saved thanks to his quick thinking, however when the fire is suspected of being arson, Andy has quite a fall from grace.
Spanning twenty odd years, the story being told flip flops from character to character as well as time periods. Stories of this nature can sometimes feel disjointed but with Before The Storm it flows well and the story unfolds in such a way that it leaves you needing to know more, needing to keep page turning - I read the vast majority of Before The Storm in just one day. With a depth to the characters, as well the small town in which the book is set, you feel invested in these people and want to know how it will all pan out.
Whilst the focal plotline is very much about Andy, there is more to Before The Storm than just suspicion of arson. So much is weaved in to this book, with people connected in ways you wouldn't have even thought of. For me, a large part of Before The Storm is learning to live with the mistakes you've made, especially when younger, because that's face it, we all make mistakes. In the heat of the moment, or in the act of love and protection, we do things that perhaps we later regret and wish we could change, yet we still have to live with them, we have to learn from them. Every single character in Before The Storm is doing just that, living and learning.
The progression of the story worked really well in context with the plot, from the little things like Laurel not knowing her son, Andy, and daughter, Maggie, as well as she thought she did, to the big things like the suspicion of Andy starting the fire. The different periods in time featured within the book lend to this progression really well and it gives you a greater knowledge of certain characters, especially Laurel and Marcus (Laurel's brother in law).
The characters themselves are well written and just as layered as the story line. In particular I think the portrayal of mother, Laurel's, post partum depression and how things evolved from that was pretty intense and her downward spiral one that you could envision actually happening. As far as favourite characters go, I really like Marcus, despite his troubles when younger, he turned out to be a pretty stand up guy.
As with many of these family oriented dramas, you often feel like you know where the story is going but continue reading because you've committed to these people now... Well, all is not what it seems in Before The Storm, and I wouldn't go looking for a happy ever after in this one.
Before The Storm is the kind of character driven book that takes you on a ride, one minute I'm hating certain character, then pitying them, then happy for them. If you find that you invest in characters easily, this one's for you. In fact, in my experience so far, any Diane Chamberlain novel is for you!
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