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[826] After the Parade – Lori Ostlund


“Aaron still had memories of the house his family had lived in and the street where his father died, enough to make his arrival with Walter a homecoming, even though he thought of what he was doing that day as running away. It was all a matter of perspective: whether one was focused on leaving or arriving, on the past or the future.” (Ch.2, 18)

After the Parade is a man’s emotional journey down the memory lane in order to come to terms with who he is. Aaron Englund Is leaving his older partner with whom he has been for over twenty years. The story goes back in time when he was raised in a small Minnesota town, where he led a lonely existence. His parents were in an abusuve, hostile relationship. When he was five, an accident that claimed the life of his father became the defining point for his life and family. At age 16, his mother vanished along with the town’s minister. It is Walter who rescues him from his foster family and gives him his life. He owes it all to him.

Aaron regarded the world as fraught with symbolism, a place where something as ordinary as knotting a tie became a commentary on one’s life.” (Ch.3, 42)

The book begins with Aaron leave his long-term partner, who has supported him all the years. But Aaron feels his life has been controlled by Walter. He leaves their home in New Mexico and moves to San Francisco, where he hopes to start afresh and continues his career as an ESL teacher. Through flashbacks reader gains an understanding of what has shaped Aaron into the man he has become. He is big-hearted and self-conscious but not feeling closure of his past. Any ordinary object could evoke his memories; the world he lives in is fraught with symbolism that justifies his beliefs and feelings.

It is obvious the past heartbreaks, disappointments dictate his mentality in the present. His angry, abusive father, a police officer, was killed in a freak accident. But it was what happened the night before—so horrified and deciding—that unhinged his mother and led to greater consequence. His mother, before her vanishing, vacillated between smothering and distant. His teacher never warmed up to him. He had never felt at ease with himself and was always an object of ridicule. Throughout his childhood and adolescence he learned to “feel invisible” (221) and enjoy it. He encountered a number of people whose differences were either physical or emotional, yet he felt at home with these misfits. Along the way he wrestles his gamut of contradictory emotions and makes sense of them.

After the Parade is a moving story about feeling isolated, feeling different, and how our relationships and personalities are shaped by the things that occur in our lives. Much of the book is about how Aaron, who keeps the world at an arm’s length, is translating into an emotional distance. The story is provocative, but unfolding very slowly as flashbacks often intersects thoughts. The language has multiple layers of meanings.

340 pp. Scrubber. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

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