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by Evie Wyld
Reviewed by F. T. Huffkin

Set in Australia, this story of fathers and sons, of war and of history seemingly doomed to repeat itself, follows two narrative strands: that of Frank, set in present-day Canberra, and Leon, set in Sydney and in Vietnam in the 1960s.

Both Frank and Leon have difficult relationships with their fathers. Frank's total rejection of his father has directly influenced the break-up of his relationship with him. After his girlfriend Lucy tries one too many times to persuade him to get back in touch, his violent behavior drives her out, and ends with him reclaiming his grandparents' shack in Canberra as he tries to put his life back together. Forty years or so earlier, Leon is dealing with the difficulties inherent in being a Jewish immigrant in Sydney when his father enlists to fight in Korea. The experience affects his father profoundly, and ultimately he deserts his wife and son. When Leon is later conscripted to fight in Vietnam, he sends his estranged mother a brief postcard announcing his absence, locks up the shop, and leaves nothing behind.

The connections between the two narratives are subtlely done and not overstressed, and the theme of forgiveness in the face of horrors nicely explored. Wyld also captures the savage beauty of the beach and bush landscape of Australia in a wonderfully evocative manner, conveying the strange wildness of an environment that is at once familiar and utterly foreign. Her prose is similarly effective in some of the passages about Leon's experiences in Vietnam. After the Fire is a memorable story of the damage done by war — and of the ever-enduring hope of healing. Unusual for a book about war, this novel is quiet and thoughtful: as the title has it, it is the "still small voice" rather than the fire.