When Louie is sent to spend time with his dad at work in the remotest part of the Federation, he wasn’t prepared to catch glimpses of people that he should not be able to see. Convinced the death of his brother, Toby, is playing tricks on his mind, he keeps quiet about the grey-faced spirits that seem to follow him wherever he goes. Once he reaches the power plant they have been sent to inspect, the last thing he thought would happen was an earthquake and its resulting tsunami!
As he encounters the aftermath of these natural phenomenons, his dad and engineer colleagues scramble to help the Enderlanders salvage what is left of their homes and village. Devastating losses for the villagers bring back powerful memories as Louis struggles to not only help those who survived but also work through his own grief at losing his brother. Shaken by the events, Louis and his dad return home but it’s not long before his dad decides to travel back to help restore power and utilities to the survivors at Causeway Bay. The world is now aware of the tsunami and it’s not long before videos emerge on-line of the same ghosts that had crossed Louis’s path. Spoof or not, Louis is determined to investigate further so he returns with his dad. Whispers of encouragement from his brother convince him that there is more to life in the Bay than he previously thought. Although frightened at first, Louis soon embraces the communication he has with Toby as he begins to understand his grief more through the continued spiritual contact with him.
Unsure what use he can be to those in need, he is tasked with listening to survivors as they come to terms with their loss. Louis is horrified at the stories of snatched last moments they had with family but his job isn’t to question anything, he is to listen, and they return every day to relive their experiences again and again. The Endlanders believe in Malouy, a deep spiritual belief that those who have passed become calmer the more those who are living share their grief.
Louis realises that he has spent too long keeping his grief inside, a fact the spirits and the Endlanders have been urging him to face since he arrived in their Bay.
Not everyone can see the ghosts, Louis’s dad is a non-believer, even when engineers return home as the dead make themselves known. With the destroyed power plant set to be completely demolished, can Louis help the spirits finally be at peace and also acknowledge his own grief and learn to live without Toby? Will he ever be able to share his experiences at Causeway Bay with his dad or will those secrets forever remain as memories?
Anne Fine’s ‘Aftershocks‘ is a magnificent masterpiece in dealing with death and the most life-affirming book I have read regarding grief and the hold it can have over those who are left behind. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the phenomenal characters, both alive and dead, will have you checking the windows and doors before you go to sleep. A truly spine-tingling ghost story (perhaps to be read in daylight hours) and yet it’s filled with a tremendous amount of hope and courage to move on after the loss of a loved one. We all deal with grief in different ways but I think the Endlanders have a lot to teach us about love and loss.