Aftershocks by Anne Fine

The Earthquake cracked

Things wide open…

We knew at once that

Hauntings would follow.

Aftershocks is a gripping supernatural yet spiritual read that will have you on the end of your seat throughout. It has all my favourite traits in a book rolled into one! Ghosts, a dash of dystopia and a sensitive portrayal of grief and belief systems that saw me swallow it up in a matter of hours.

Anne Fine has skillfully aligned the aftershocks of a natural disaster and the utter devastation of a whole community with the horrendous fall-out for one boy’s family after the sudden tragic loss of his older brother. Bereavement affects all of us in different ways and one person’s way of dealing with loss can seem strange or unfeeling to another. Grief has torn Louie’s family apart but when he finds himself spending time with the survivors of a community ravaged by an earthquake, he starts to learn that only by facing his darkest fears will he be able to offer help, not just to his loved ones but to the entire stricken community.

When Louise joins his engineer father on a routine inspection of a pumping station in the Endlands, he’s not expecting to be caught up in a natural disaster. After hours of trekking to what seems like the ends of the earth, the small team arrive at the complex. Louie immediately senses the unsettling atmosphere; the strange standing stones on the road in, the silent shadow of a caretaker who emerges from the gatehouse and a series of haunting black and white photographs showing the plant’s construction. A feeling of unease hangs in the air as the team bed down for the night, the atmosphere charged.

A devastating earthquake strikes early next morning, reducing the plant to rubble. Miraculously, Louie and his dad survive but this was just the beginning. From the other side of the ridge that separates the plant from Causeway Bay, a huge roar errupts confirming their worst fears: a tsunami caused by the earthquake has hit, tearing through everything and leaving death and destruction in its path. What makes these scenes so terrifying is that Louie doesn’t actually see the tsunami hit, it’s told from what he imagines is happening, concealed by the ridge. When the small party eventually climb to the top and peer over, what meets their eyes is utter devastation.

Louie’s dad remains in Causeway Bay with his engineer colleagues and volunteers involved in the clean up operation whilst Louie is transported to safety in a helicopter. Back home, Louie discovers news of the disaster has spread as well as growing reports of creepy goings-on.

Louie finds posts on the internet of ghostly apparitions in the bay and he receives confimation of his ability to see them in the most chilling of ways. Whilst talking to his dad via video call, a blurry elongated figure steps into the frame behind his dad. It hovers behind him, with it’s head twisting towards the laptop screen, as if listening intently…

‘There’s one of them behind you right now, listening to every word you say.’

He spun round to look. Then he turned back to me. ‘Nice one Louie. You really fooled me there, nearly gave me a heart attack.’

The figure stated at me directly over Dad’s shoulder and then the screen went blank.

That particular scene and the build up to it well and truly sent shivers down my spine! And there’s plenty more like it, I was literally looking over my shoulder in my own house as I read at night.

With the infrastructure gradually being rebuilt, Louie returns to Causeway Bay to rejoin his dad in the school holidays and it doesn’t take long before he has his first ghostly encounter. A young child drenched in muddy water walks past him in the compound, leaving a trail of wet footprints before vanishing without a trace. Soon Louie begins to see whole families of Endlanders, wandering dripping wet before mysteriously disappearing.

The villagers practice an ancient custom named Malouy, a ritual of repeatedly telling the story of the loss of their loved ones to calm the troubled and restless spirits. Louie observes the practise first-hand, but the curiously unsettling ways of the Endlanders raise his own ghosts; his brother Toby who died very suddenly in an accident. This opens up the floodgates and Louie experiences his own outpouring of grief to his father, who has been paralysed by a cloud of numbness and horror since his son’s passing. Can the beliefs of this shattered community help them to heal their own hearts?

This is such a dramatic and incredibly moving work of fiction that I know I will be gripped by again and again and I am sure you will too.

So it is with great pleasure I have been given the first two chapters to share with you exclusively below – enjoy!

Aftershocks was published on the 10th February by Old Barn Books.

With thanks to Liz Scott PR for sending me a review copy of this breathtaking book.

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