A God in Ruins

In this follow-up to 2013's Life After Life, Kate Atkinson charts the adventures of Ursula Todd's younger brother, Teddy. Eschewing a linear narrative, Atkinson parcels out Teddy's life in pieces, hopping neatly from his boyhood to his daughter's struggle to raise her own children to night bombings in a Halifax aircraft above Germany. After stumbling through an unfocused young adulthood, Teddy finds the outbreak of World War II a relief, because it gives him a purpose, but the adventures it brings him shatter his innocence forever. Despite his fear during the war that he will have no "after," Teddy survives. He marries and becomes a father, but doesn't find the balm he imagined would come with family life. The interconnectedness of life's small moments is thrown into sharp relief as segments feed from and loop back into each other.

While A God in Ruins stands on its own, fans will be glad to see reappearances by Ursula and others from the previous novel. Marked by poetry and song, Atkinson's combination of wartime and family drama evokes a lost era, while also showing how World War II helped bring that time to a close. Teddy witnesses the breakdown of class prejudice through camaraderie, the slide from prudishness to promiscuity, and the destruction of the flower-filled meadows he knew in his youth to make way for crops to feed a hungry country. Simultaneously, Atkinson illustrates the difficult transition from wartime to peacetime. Above all else, Teddy's story is one of a family braving the rapids of a relentlessly shifting world with grace, dignity and solidarity. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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