What Comes After
By Steve Watkins
(Candlewick, Hardcover, 9780763642501, 352pp.)
Publication Date: April 12, 2011
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A gripping portrait of a teen’s struggles through grief and abuse - and the miraculous power of animals to heal us.
After her veterinarian dad dies, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight must leave her beloved Maine to live on a North Carolina farm with her hardbitten aunt and a cousin she barely knows. Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, immediately clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats the livestock, spends Iris’s small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Things come to a head when Iris sets two young goats free to save them from slaughter, and an enraged Aunt Sue orders her brutish son, Book, to beat Iris senseless - a horrific act that lands Book and his mother in jail. Sent to live with an offbeat foster family and their "dooking" ferrets, Iris must find a way to take care of the animals back at the farm, even if it means confronting Aunt Sue. Powerful and deeply moving, this compelling novel affirms the redemptive power of animals and the resilience of the human spirit.
Steve Watkins is the author of Down Sand Mountain. He says What Comes After was inspired by reading an article about a girl placed in foster care after an assault. "I recognized her - and others like her - through my work as an investigator and advocate in the juvenile justice system. I knew her story deserved to be told." A short-story writer and winner of a Pushcart Prize, Steve Watkins lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.