Reviewed by Krista Castner

After the Fog, Kathleen Shoop’s latest book, follows The Last Letter, which was published in 2011. I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Letter and reviewed it for Luxury Reading. I was highly anticipating getting my hands on After the Fog. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. I think that the writing is every bit as good as it was in The Last Letter, but the subject matter and storyline are almost uncomprehendingly dreary.

After the Fog is a work of historical fiction. Its setting is the 1948 steel mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania. In 1948, Donora really did experience a ‘killing smog’ when a weather inversion trapped the smoke and poisonous gasses of three local active mills in the valley. Twenty people died during the five day weather inversion. This story centers around Rose Pavlesic who works as a Community Nurse while trying to keep her extended family marching to her rigid drumbeat. “Tough Cookie”, is the phrase that comes to mind when describing Rose. But she does have reasons for her tough controlling ways. Those reasons stem from a childhood spent in an orphanage and secrets from that time which she’s never revealed to anyone. I won’t spoil the story and reveal the secrets here either.

As the fog settles in the valley, Rose struggles to help the people in the city in her role as community nurse; and to keep her family intact. Neither of her teen-age children are following the paths she’s laid out for them; a college science scholarship for her daughter, and a football scholarship for her son. Her brother-in-law, Buzzy, continues to be a drain on the family’s never-quite-enough financial situation. When her husband Henry, gets fired from the mill for mysterious reasons, the family is tipped further toward ruin. Through all this and more Rose marches on. She marches until she runs smack into her darkest secret which is revealed curiously enough, in the midst of the fog.

The description of the living conditions of the people of Donora are detailed and appalling to those of us living more than 50 years removed from the era. The author expertly paints a picture of a town shrouded in fog. She’s also very informative about what a relentless daily grind it was to keep a house clean and your family healthy even without the added health hazards of the fog. On a historical fiction level I think the book really succeeds. Where I think it falls a bit short is in creating characters that I cared more about. I wanted to care. I really did. Sadly, at the end of After the Fog, I just wanted to be able to breathe again and escape all the drama.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Also by Kathleen Shoop: The Last Letter

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by BookSparks PR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.