From the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award, the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Rea Award for the Short Story: a gorgeously rendered, passionate account of a relationship threatened by secrets, set against the backdrop of national tragedy.
When Natasha, a talented young artist working as a congressional aide, meets Michael Faulk, an Episcopalian priest struggling with his faith, the stars seem to align. Although he is nearly two decades older, they discover in each other the happy yearning and exhilaration of lovers, and within months they are engaged. Shortly before their wedding, while Natasha is vacationing in Jamaica and Faulk is in New York attending the wedding of a family friend, the terrorist attacks of September 11 shatter the tranquillity of the nation’s summer. Alone in a state of abject terror, cut off from America and convinced that Faulk is dead, Natasha makes an error in judgment that leads to a private trauma of her own on the Caribbean shore. A few days later, she and Faulk are reunited, but the horror of that day and Natasha’s inability to speak of it inexorably divide their relationship into “before” and “after.” They move to Memphis and begin their new life together, but their marriage quickly descends into repression, anxiety, and suspicion.
In prose that is direct, exact, and lyrical, Richard Bausch plumbs the complexities of public and personal trauma, and the courage with which we learn to face them. Above all, Before, During, After is a love story, offering a penetrating and exquisite portrait of intimacy, of spiritual and physical longing, and of the secrets we convince ourselves to keep even as they threaten to destroy us. An unforgettable tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished storytellers.
Set amid the chaos of 9/11, this novel from Bausch (Peace) is an adequate addition to the author's oeuvre. After meeting at a fundraiser, D.C. congressional aide Natasha Barrett and disillusioned Episcopalian priest Michael Faulk fall into a whirlwind romance. Engaged, and intending to relocate to Memphis, the couple find themselves separated when the 2001 terrorist attacks occur: Michael is in New York City at a wedding; Natasha is in Jamaica, vacationing with a friend. As Michael frantically tries to escape the city, Natasha, fearing that her fianc is dead, wanders the beach heavily intoxicated and is raped by a fellow vacationer. Once home in Memphis, Natasha keeps the assault to herself, and Michael grows frustrated with her new emotional distance as their wedding day nears. He suspects Natasha has been unfaithful, but is afraid to ask. A tale of trust and loss, the novel strives to fit Natasha and Michael's personal problems into the greater story of America's turmoil. Bausch excels at capturing the mood of Americans in the days and weeks following 9/11 equal parts camaraderie and suspicion but only rarely engages the reader emotionally.