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After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

True crime

After the Eclipse

by Sarah Perry

Excellent choice

Excellent choice

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Quick take

"I think what affects me most about her story is her need to search for who her mother was through police records, court documents and the friends and family her mother left behind."

Synopsis

A fierce memoir of a mother’s murder, a daughter’s coming-of-age in the wake of immense loss, and her mission to know the woman who gave her life.

When Sarah Perry was twelve, she saw a partial eclipse of the sun, an event she took as a sign of good fortune for her and her mother, Crystal. But that brief moment of darkness ultimately foreshadowed a much larger one: two days later, Crystal was murdered in their home in rural Maine, just a few feet from Sarah’s bedroom.

The killer escaped unseen; it would take the police twelve years to find him, time in which Sarah grew into adulthood, struggling with abandonment, police interrogations, and the effort of rebuilding her life when so much had been lost. Through it all she would dream of the eventual trial, a conviction—all her questions finally answered. But after the trial, Sarah’s questions only grew. She wanted to understand her mother’s life, not just her final hours, and so she began a personal investigation, one that drew her back to Maine, taking her deep into the abiding darkness of a small American town.

Told in searing prose, After the Eclipse is a luminous memoir of uncomfortable truth and terrible beauty, an exquisite memorial for a mother stolen from her daughter, and a blazingly successful attempt to cast light on her life once more.

Free sample

After the Eclipse

One cold March, just a few years ago, I rented a flawlessly clean silver car and drove up to Maine from my home in Brooklyn. I'd made it just north of Boston when the trees started to press in close, and as the network of pavement thinned down to I-95, I began hours of sitting in the dark, following that one road ever north. I held my left hand steady on the wheel at six o'clock, sifted through pop songs and ad spots with my right. I missed my early twenties, when I still had my own car and still smoked, moodily exhaling into the night on my semiannual trips up and down the East Coast, from college to home and back again. Once I entered Maine, I tuned into WBLM, the classic rock station, one of the few clear signals that holds on through the mountains. 'BLM had been our station, the one Mom and I listened to on countless Sunday drives through tunnels of sunlit trees. I listened to David Bowie and Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac and Heart, and Mom was alive again, then newly dead again, then long gone and faded away. I still knew all the words. About an hour into Maine, I finally turned off the highway, winding farther north until I reached my aunt Carol's house. It was midnight, and I shivered as I got out of the car, unprepared for the crystalline cold that had been waiting for me. Carol and her husband had been asleep for hours, but through a front window I could see they had left the yellow light on over the stairway to my old bedroom. The car door made a sharp sound when I pushed it shut, the trees replying with a softened echo. I stood outside for a minute, head swiveled up to the crowded stars, until something rustled in the ditch along the road, and I remembered where I was, and the fear moved back into me, running along my veins, racing up and down my limbs, warming me and settling in.

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Why I love it

Reading After the Eclipse made me think of my own life in two parts: Before I became an actor, and now that I am one. I think of what sliding doors I could’ve walked through or avoided and wonder if I’d have ended up here, wherever "here" is. If I had gone to a different school, or lived in a different apartment, would it have changed the course of my life completely?

Sarah Perry's life is also separated into two parts, but in a totally different way. She writes the haunting, true story of the death of her mother when she was a scared, twelve-year-old girl.  Sarah was at home and awake as her mother was assaulted and murdered. Sarah heard much of the attack but paralyzed by fear, she was unable to intervene. Here in her book, she talks about her life in before and after. Before the murder, she was a smart girl with a bright future with a loving mom for a best friend. After, she became a tragic orphan with more questions than answers, an incomplete understanding of who her mother was and a blank, empty space of who she’ll never get to be.

I think what affects me most about her story is her need to search for who her mother was through police records, court documents and the friends and family her mother left behind. I can’t imagine having to piece together a loved one’s life with what are essentially scraps of paper. Especially my mother. Luckily, I don’t have to do that. I have both of my parents still but I can’t say I know who they are, outside of just being my mom and dad.  Even now, I haven’t spoken to my dad in weeks and can go just as long without talking to my mother. I can go years without speaking to my siblings. I act as if I’m an orphan. I like to think "Oh I’ll make a call or visit soon. I'll get to know them as people and not just as parents someday." After the Eclipse reminds me that tragedy can strike at any moment and "someday," can and will disappear forever and that may be sooner than I think.

After the Eclipse is both a heartfelt memoir and a suspenseful story. With its many twist and turns, the mystery of this murdered woman and the small town of people who knew and loved her, feels like I’m reading a prequel to Twin Peaks. The more I read and unlock the secrets of who Sarah’s mother was, the more I am urged to unlock the secrets of who my own parents are. While I’m not yet an orphan.

Member ratings (2,169)

  • Emily B.

    Eugene, OR

    So raw and honest - everyone who is “obsessed” with murder (especially fans of the My Favorite Murder podcast) should read this and afterwards see if they still feel the same of unresolved violence.

  • Donna A.

    Long Beach, CA

    This book has stayed with me since I’ve read it. Sarah’s mother was murdered while she was in the next room. It’s told by her memories before and after the murder. Highly recommend for Murderinos.

  • Sara P.

    Cincinnati , OH

    Sarah is one strong woman and I applaud her bravery. If you’ve ever watched the news and thought “omg, how terrible!”, yet an hour later are worried about your own petty crap, you should read this

  • Cassidy K.

    Mount holly , NJ

    Ive read this one twice and it has stuck with me long after I finished it. I recommend this one very much. It can be kind of hard to get through just bc of the subject matter but it’s worth the read

  • Kristin S.

    Denver, CO

    This author's writing, vulnerability, and strength set this true crime novel apart from the rest of the genre. She also challenges society to less sensationalize crime and feel it as the horror it is.

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