Aftershocks by William Lavender
Jessie’s troubles start when she is discovered looking at medical instruments in the local medical supply shop window. She can’t help but be fascinated by the strange tools used by doctors, especially since she wants to practice medicine herself. However, her father has other plans. A doctor himself, he is adamant that no proper young lady in San Francisco’s high society will ever practice medicine. He insists that it is not a dignified profession for a woman.
All of this changes when Jessie discovers some less-than-reputable late-night excursions between her father and the family’s new Chinese maid, Mei Lin. On New Year’s Eve in 1904, Mei Lin disappears, and Jessie is sure that Mei Lin has fled to protect her unborn illegitimate child. When Chinatown is almost completely destroyed by the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, Jessie seizes the opportunity to search for her half-sister. It isn’t long before she finds Lilly, a Chinese orphan with distinctively reddish-black hair like Jessie’s father. She is sure that this is her half-sister, but how can Jessie save her sister, and spare her strict family the shame of the secret she’s discovered?
San Francisco in 1906 is a dangerous place. William Lavender’s book Aftershocks does an excellent job of capturing this spirit of chaos and showing that sometimes it’s not the natural disaster, but what happens afterward that will ultimately change lives. This one of those truly multi-layer novels that has so much going on, it's hard to summarize in just a few short paragraphs. However, far from making the story confusing, it gives this historical novel a new level of depth and complexity.
The cover of this book reveals that this is “a tale of romance and social justice,” but it ends up being much more. Although this story takes place during a major historical disaster, the book focuses more on how the event changes Jessie’s life, not how it ravages the city. While engulfed in this book, the audience grows, changes, and matures right along with Jessie as she struggles with the family secret that literally changes her life.
Shady Glade Rating: 10/10