It’s October 1962. The Cuban missile crisis is breaking open, putting the world on razor-thin edge. In Florida, residents have been seeing lines of army trucks heading south toward Miami. An invasion appears imminent.
In Deland, Florida, two brothers, 11-year-old Colt and 6-year-old Timmy Harrison, are oblivious of the crisis. They’re dealing with a more personal crisis – the breakup of their parent’s marriage. Scott and Gina Harrison have been separated for 10 months, but they have been pretending otherwise. And instructing their sons to lie as well.
Colt and Timmy reach a crisis point, and run away from home. They hop a bus headed to Savannah, Georgia and a beloved aunt and uncle. Along the way, the bus stops for lunch. And Timmy disappears, taken by a man on another bus headed south.
What Follows After by Christian fiction Dan Walsh is the story of Colt and Timmy, their parents, and other family members during a time when much of the world was convinced that nuclear war was imminent. Published in 2014, it won the 2015 Selah Award for Best Historical Fiction and was a finalist for the 2015 ACFW Carol Award for Historical Fiction.
It’s an interesting story with an interesting premise, and uses one of the most dramatic backdrops of the second half of the 20th century. That said, the book does have problems. The point of view shifts between the two brothers, the father, the mother, the African-American maid who works for the grandmother and helped raised the boy’s father, the man who kidnapped Timmy, and the two FBI agents handling the case. The book begins in contemporary times and then shifts back to 1962, and it’s not exactly clear why until the narrative is well underway. And the critical role played by the African-American maid is an unconvincing coincidence.
Walsh is the author of numerous Christian novels, including Unintended Consequences, When Night Comes, and Remembering Dresden, all in the Jack Turner suspense series; Finding Riley; Rescuing Finley; The Deepest Waters; The Reunion; The Homecoming; and many more. His works have won numerous Christian writing and book awards, as did What Follows After.
The premise is fascinating, and Walsh can tell a good story. The characterization is strong – the reader really cares about these characters. A little judicious editing would have helped immensely.
Top photograph: An October 1962 front-page headline of the New York Daily News.