Review by Grady Harp
New Hampshire author Jennifer-Lynn Keniston, originally from Massachusetts, lights a fire with a slow burn that takes the reader through tale of mystery, suspense, a hefty flavor of New England, and a satisfying infusion of spiritual concerns in this her debut novel. Her background includes a Master of Arts degree in English, from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy, from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Her day job is as a project manager for a company providing cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies, and as of last year she started her own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letters. The tenor of this new novel is so rich that it is at least likely as not that Jennifer-Lynn will embrace writing novels full time!
Jennifer-Lynn comments on her thoughts: ‘The title is personal; Afta-U was the name of the Flying Scot sailboat owned by my maternal grandfather. The story details everything that happens after the death, at the age of 11, of a little girl named Hope. Hope’s best friend Jean, who is now almost 40, narrates the story. The Afta-U is both a literal and figurative boat that quietly immortalizes Hope, since Jean is haunted by her past and hasn’t come to terms with it.’ And from that brief thought the successful manner in which Jennifer-Lynn suffuses mystery with spirituality is evident.
The story synopsis pulls us in – ‘Michael’s smile broadened. “It seems like you’re surprised to see me, Jean. Don’t tell me you thought that they’d leave an eleven-year-old boy locked away forever.” Twenty-nine years after the tragic death of her childhood best friend, Hope, Jean Cartwright Rhodes returns to her hometown with her husband and daughter after she inherits the house her friend’s family once lived in. Now, years later, she finds herself haunted by a dark truth – and by the specter of Hope herself. Every time Jean looks through her kitchen window, she sees two stark reminders of her troubled past; the Afta-U sailboat, ironically named after young Hope, and the old oak tree where her eleven-year-old friend met her death at the hands of another child. Afta-U unfolds as a psychological chess match, a complex web of intrigue, unexpected relationships, lies, and devastating secrets as Jean struggles with the impact of decisions she made long ago on all the lives around her. When Jean confronts and tries to come to grips with Hope’s killer, she finds herself waging a personal battle between madness and redemption.’
But what a synopsis cannot capture is the lyrical beauty of Jennifer-Lynn’s writing, mixing poetry with prose in a manner that enhances the atmosphere of this splendid tale. Jennifer-Lynn Keniston has the markings of a significant writer, one unafraid to embrace her spiritual beliefs while relating a story that holds a rich body of detail and refreshing ideas.
AUTHOR: JENNIFER-LYNN KENISTON
PUBLISHER: TATE PUBLISHING