Meet four generations of the Duvalier family, for whom sugar cane is both a blessing and a curse. From patriarch Carter, who perishes before the novel begins – after being hit in the head by an exploding manhole cover – and his indomitable holy-roller wife Lily, to their dysfunctional sons Winston and Steven, and their equally screwed-up grandchildren, the Duvaliers, both dead and alive, would do anything to keep their secrets hidden.
As their world is blown apart by the winds of Katrina, and consumed by greed and lust – and with Afterworld exercising an unearthly control over them all – their story creates a novel of unimaginable beauty, dark humor and terrible tragedy.
At once screamingly funny, deeply poignant, enchantingly original and absolutely unforgettable, Lois Walden’s multi-layered, multi-generational saga takes you on a hugely imaginative tour of Louisiana, uncovering its corrupt beauty and seductive secrets.
Steaming and heaving with sugar, sex, drink, deviance and depravity, Afterworld is a unique, confrontational book that will leave you both spellbound and panting for more.
‘What, if anything, lies on the Other Side of this physical existence is a bottomless subject of speculation; people have been killed, in fact, for their differing opinions. It takes steady nerves to imagine something quite new and different and strange, and a strong, subtle voice to pull it off–but then, anyone who has read Lois Walden’s One More Stop knows she’s got both.’ – READ MORE
‘A journey through the sugarcane and swamps of Louisiana
Careful there’s a storm coming…
And it’s a strong and violent wind blowing thorough the generations.
The winds of desire, guilt, identity and family history swirl around each other. Suddenly there is a blast of debauchery and we are swept along with the current to witness more secrets unravelling.
The sugar fields offer little protection from the gales and actually are the settings for the most extreme debauchery and eccentric revelations
Take my hand, hold on tight, hold your breath as we are about to venture deep into the Afterworld’- READ MORE
— THE BOOKTRAIL
“Ms Walden has constructed a quite complex, but actually quite ‘believable’, work where the relationships – warts and all – across the generations are explored with some really beautiful writing. The sexual deviancy is an integral part of the plot, and it is not included for any voyeuristic reason…It is a book which is both very funny, and very thought provoking.”
EXCERPTS FROM AFTERWORLD
Where are we? We are in the place before thought, before you were you, before you came into form. We created this place for you, for you and your family. I am your dreamer. You are my dream. I dreamed you into being. You are not in the image and likeness of me. You are very much you, whoever you are. I am but the beginning of you. All that has been, all that is … includes you. All of your “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” is what you think I need to hear. I do not need to hear any of it. I am too busy dreaming you. You want to know how it works? How can I answer unanswerable questions?
Rheta’s questions: ‘Why did I give away my son? Is he dead or alive?’ Doreen’s question: ‘Why do I drink?’ Doreen is here with us, still trying to get over her psychological stupor; years and years after her death … a difficult transition for her. Steven’s questions, which have everything to do with Doreen’s drinking: ‘Why boys? Why Theodore?’ Winston’s question: ‘Why did Charlotte have to die?’ How many times do I have to listen to that one? Melanie’s heartfelt question: ‘Why? Why my baby girl. Why did they take her so soon?’ Understandable. Then there is Charlotte. Charlotte. Melanie’s daughter, Winston’s wife, Charlotte, who has been driving me crazy with her moods and never-ending questions: ‘Why can”t we fly like the peregrine falcons? Why can’t we be like the Cypress trees? Why, why, why?’ Do not ask me. I haven’t the faintest idea. Finally, there is Theodore and his questions: ‘What do I want? Will I ever be content?’ Who is content in any world?
There are so many individuals, dead and alive, seeking answers. I have better things to do with my time than answer every single one of their questions, thoughts and prayers. Have I made myself clear?
Have you ever been to Riverside Park in Manhattan? That park is a park for strangers to meet and become fuck-buddies. The front of the park is for straight guys lookin’ for girls. Usually, everyone is walkin’ a dog. Damn! You see more dogs tied up to trees in that park than you could imagine. And why are they tied up? Their owners are busy gettin’ it on in the bushes. That’s why. The back side of the park is for mysterious men; men addicted to other men, men looking for blow jobs, hand jobs, ass jobs, men at the end of a day’s job, straight men going home to Connecticut, not quite ready to go home.
I ride my motorcycle to Riverside Park. I don’t need a dog to sniff out the action. I have never come home empty-handed from that West Side sex haven. I am extremely interestin’ to men on foot. I just sit on my bike real nonchalant like, peruse every single guy that walks by. Sooner or later, someone gets on the back of my cycle with a hard-on.
I turn around, see if I want him. When our eyes meet, if my heart races and my dick hardens, off we go. Sometimes we go as far as the Palisades. I love New Jersey, especially at night when the lights from the George Washington Bridge light up the sky like it were Christmas or a Fourth of July celebration. I have heard that my mother loved Christmas. I would have liked to have celebrated just one Christmas with her. That would have been a fine memory to carry with me through life.
It is true that I am forever tryin’ to get somewhere. When I get there, I am forever disappointed. When I am disappointed, I need to disappear by having sex with myself or with some other lucky so-and-so. I think sex is a great stress buster. Give me one last splendid orgasm before this world blows up, this plane goes down or this body gets sick with some incurable disease; one majestic masturbatory farewell.
Transient. I am that word. I live that life. Transient is hot and sexy. Anal sex is hot and sexy. We are primal beings. We are on a quest, one that continues long after we settle down. So why settle down?
I am your whore! Fertilize me, rotate me, lay me fallow, kiss the ground that keeps your lucrative enterprise growing. I am, without a doubt, a bona fide, sweet-talkin’, swingin’, sweeter-than-any-lady-you-have-ever-fucked, kind of gal. Yet, I have no rights. There is no such thing as ‘Sugar suffrage.’ Me and my kind live and die by your hand. Your machinery rapes my long, lean body, throws it to the ground, carries it away and burns it like garbage. I ain’t garbage! You hear me?
You and your Jesuit priests brought me to Louisiana in the 1750s, without asking my permission. You don’t have my permission! You don’t own me. You need me. You want me to be your sugar baby? What the hell do I get out of this one-sided affair? I am soaked with rain, flooded with shame, torn down one harvest after another harvest, lousy bugs crawlin’ all over me, eatin’ my roots, suckin’ my minerals, makin’ holes in every part of me and you don’t want to hear about it?
Tellin’ your children stories about generations and generations of honourable sugar men and sugar women who came before you. You don’t tell the truth! This land was stolen! Some bastard sued some other bastard and that bastard got a hold of me. Some government agency settled, out of court, so that you could own me. That agency got paid; under the table paid. Millions of dollars have exchanged hands, so you can live in mansions, have servants, reap the benefits of my hard work, my tireless dedication to the art of survival. I have endured your carelessness for as long as I have existed. Damn it! I am tired of being stripped of my self-respect. You, on the other hand, you are respected, because you have acquired eight thousand acres of my golden fields over the last one hundred years of my life. I am fed up with you and your progeny!
You bring that boy back here! Do you hear what I’m sayin’? I want Theodore! He is the only one in your family who respects and adores me. When he walks through my fields, he is in awe of my beauty. Bring that boy back and all will be forgiven. Or get yourself ready for all hell to break loose! And I am not just talkin’ bullshit!
Winston and Charlotte
Winston gets up from the rocker. He walks toward the railing. He smells Charlotte, but cannot quite figure out her exact location. He strokes the railing. He talks to the railing as if it were Charlotte. ‘Did you ever love me, Charlotte?’
‘Oh, Winston. Let”s not have that conversation again.’
‘I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t love you.’
‘I don’t understand. Why were you so unhappy?’
‘Winston! This is the last time you are going to have this absurd, absolutely bizarre conversation with yourself. Is that clear?’ Winston shrugs his shoulders. ‘I never wanted to have children. I didn’t want to be a mother. You made me a mother, Winston. It was your fault. I hated taking care of you and Alice. I loved you both, but I didn’t want to be a doctor’s wife, stuck in the sticks, hanging out laundry on a hot humid day, where nothing would ever dry. It seemed stupid. I wanted my mother’s life. I wanted freedom, freedom to explore the whole wide world. You shrunk my world, Winston! I longed for private time in the swamp, by myself! You insisted on coming with me! I wasn’t interested in sharing those beautiful birds with you or anyone else. They were my birds! You acted like they were your birds! I hated it. That’s what killed me, Winston. Hate. I’m sorry I hated you, but I did. I am sorry. I loved you, too. I loved Alice. Where is Alice?’
Winston is crying. ‘She’s in New York with the kids. They’re staying at Theodore’s apartment.’ He sits down on the porch step, picks up a piece of roofing and flings it into the air. He wipes his eyes with his wet sleeve. ‘Damn rain burns my eyes. The kids wanted to see some stupid show about a lion.’
‘I don’t know. He’s probably travelling; another one of his funny business trips. I can’t keep up with his shenanigans.’
‘In the middle of a hurricane?’
‘I guess so.’
‘Honestly, Winston, he’s your brother. Where’s Theodore?’
‘Don’t you already know where everybody is?’
‘Port Fourchon. Your son is with Cleveland Alexander in Port Fourchon. Can you beat that? Rheta B.’s long-lost son shows up, out of the blue, next thing you know he and your son become bosom buddies. Isn’t that something special?’
‘That boy of yours is so much like you, it scares me to death.’ Winston laughs so hard he nearly falls off the step.
‘He’s a good boy. Your son. The kids like him a lot. He might move back home one day and take care of his old man.’
‘You never know what might happen.’ Charlotte disappears. Winston sits on the bottom porch step. He catches raindrops with his tongue.
Another piece of roofing falls to the ground. Winston picks it up, he plays with it, he talks to it. ‘Crazy. It is getting crazy around here.’