After the Parade
"In her appealing debut, prizewinning short story writer Ostlund writes with acuity and refreshing honesty about the messy complexity of being a social animal in today’s world. Touching and often hilarious . . . "
—Booklist (Starred Review)
Sensitive, bighearted, and achingly self-conscious, forty-year-old Aaron Englund long ago escaped the confines of his Midwestern hometown, but he still feels like an outcast. After twenty years under the Pygmalion-like care of his older partner Walter, Aaron at last decides it is time to take control of his own fate. But soon after establishing himself in San Francisco—where he moves between a shoddy garage apartment and the ramshackle ESL school where he teaches—Aaron sees that real freedom will not come until he has made peace with his memories of Mortonville, Minnesota: a cramped town whose four hundred souls form the constellation of Aaron’s childhood heartbreaks and hopes.
After Aaron’s father died, it was the larger-than-life misfits of his childhood—a sardonic, wheelchair–bound dwarf named Clarence; a generous, obese baker named Bernice; a kindly aunt preoccupied with dreams of The Rapture—who served as Aaron’s allies. But Aaron’s sense of rejection runs deep: when Aaron was seventeen, Dolores, his mother, vanished one night. And when, all those years later, a new friend in San Francisco offers Aaron a way to locate his lost mother, his past and present collide, forcing him to rethink his place in the world.
In the tragicomic spirit of John Irving’s and Elizabeth Strout’s finest novels, Lori Ostlund’s debut is an openhearted contemplation of how we grow up and move on, how we can turn our deepest wounds into our greatest strengths. Written with wit and bursting with vitality, After the Parade is a glorious new anthem for the outsider.