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After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search

Review

After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search

One night in May 1994, 12-year-old Sarah Perry woke to the sounds of arguing and violence. At first she thought her mother was fighting with her fiancé again. But later the sounds grew even more terrible and desperate. When, later still, Perry emerged into the silence, she found her mother bloodied and dead, and ran out of the house for help. This moment, this murder, is obviously pivotal and life-changing for Perry, but it is part of the larger story of her mother, Crystal, and the life they led together and apart.

AFTER THE ECLIPSE is a wrenching, searing, beautifully written and finely detailed memoir. Centered on Crystal Perry’s life and tragic death, its scope is broader. In sharing her mother's life, Perry also explores family history and trauma, poverty, and the epidemic of violence against women in America.

"AFTER THE ECLIPSE is as compelling as it is difficult to read. It is at once a tribute to Perry’s mother, an investigation of a crime, and an indictment of a society that allows violence against women to run rampant and often unchecked."

Crystal grew up one of 10 children in an abusive home. She was smart and beautiful, known for her unique red hair. She found solace in her friendships, joy in dancing, and escape in an early marriage. Married at 15 and a mother at 18, Crystal’s relationships with men until her death at 30 were complicated and mostly troubled, and this factored into the early days of the murder investigation. Perry’s own memories, though, are primarily those of her mother’s fierce love, hard work to support them, pride and kindheartedness. The natural sweetness and potential that Perry ascribes to Crystal is in stark contrast to many of the realities of her life, further highlighting the senselessness of her death.

The years following the murder were awful for Perry, as she bounced from relative to relative, never feeling wanted, missing her mother terribly, with the knowledge that the still-unknown killer was free. The trial, so many years later, brings only one kind of resolution for Perry, her family and their small community. This memoir is not about resolution but about longing, depth of feeling and love.

AFTER THE ECLIPSE is as compelling as it is difficult to read. It is at once a tribute to Perry’s mother, an investigation of a crime, and an indictment of a society that allows violence against women to run rampant and often unchecked. It is carefully written and emotionally controlled, a testament to Perry’s writing skill as well as her interior strength. The narrative is devastating, and our fascination is another subtext of Perry’s tale: Our interest in sensational crimes, especially those in which the victims are women, only contributes to the culture that allows these crimes to happen.

Yet the book is never preachy or moralistic. Perry’s story is her own, and swinging from the bright figure of her mother to the dark truths of Crystal’s life and death, it still taps into universalities. Her ability to draw readers into this deeply personal story is amazing. AFTER THE ECLIPSE is gorgeous in its detail and description, but absolutely heartbreaking and totally terrifying.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 6, 2017

After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search
by Sarah Perry

  • Publication Date: September 26, 2017
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0544302656
  • ISBN-13: 9780544302655