One Afternoon In April – Book Review

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Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“If life don’t show you the bright side, polish the dull side.”

I first heard of this author almost two years ago when I read and reviewed his first novel, Black Volta. While this book is similar in some ways, it has such a refreshing spin that will have you hooked with a big old smile on your face! I loved getting to know three very different characters with different personalities, but who were linked by very similar life goals. A really memorable journey. I’m so pleased to be sharing my review for One Afternoon In April – I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts and please do support by sharing or buying a copy if you like the sound of it!

About the book

ONE AFTERNOON IN APRIL…

A Black Woman, Asian Man, and White Older Woman collide on a hiking trail. Battle lines get drawn, alliances form and shift, and a comedic tug-of-war ensues between conflicting cultures and cravings.

Genie searches for a deeper experience in life than her CEO-track career provide, but is hung up by her dependence on metaphysics.

Max yearns for and adventurous life in the Peace Corps, but can’t see leaving his immigrant Vietnamese parents behind.

Amy wants her dead husband back.

The beginning

Before I started this book, I read back through my review of Black Volta and had an idea for how this book would feel. It turned out to be a lot different than I thought! The subtle humour and conversational tone hits you from that very first page, and that’s all this book needed to grab me and keep me interested. I haven’t read a book with a good bit of humour since Chris Walsh’s The Dig Street Festival (even though the humour in each is very different) and my god I was in desperate need of one! The book begins by introducing us to one of the three main characters, Genie, and I instantly warmed to this woman. She shared similar traits to myself and was just a joy to follow. Max and Amy are introduced shortly after, with the book focusing on the points of view of these characters. This mixed things up perfectly! I was looking forward to getting to know this trio and learning how they were all linked together. I had a feeling their journeys would be pretty bumpy!

Even though they don’t get off to the best of starts, I could tell these three people would provide an entertaining story, and boy was I right. The book is set in the times of coronavirus, but the author ensures there’s a light spin on things for the most part. However, we still learn of the death of Amy’s husband a year previously. She blames herself and it took me back to when times were even tougher than they are now, and it really did remind me of all the pain that was in the world last year. The sadness aside, I felt the author had approached all this well without over doing it, and it was just enough to set the scene for all these characters. Genie is looking for her purpose in life, and a trip to Peru (with or without her beloved alpaca, Evan) is looking more and more appealing. We learn about her past relationships and why they failed, and even her job, and all these smaller details made me so much more attached to these characters. Even so early on, I was really enjoying where this book was going – so refreshingly different!

“Yeah, rules are rules. I get that. But rules also make me feel tired. Do we really need so many of them?”

I loved reading about the cultures surrounding the characters in this book, and I felt such an important part of Max’s story in particular. We learn about why April 30th is such a big date for him and get a bit more backstory which was written so well. The author has perfectly created such complex backstories for each character we meet and made them so interesting. Even so close to the start of the book, I felt like I needed to dive deeper into their lives and minds to find out everything I could about them. As the story opened, Max found his own piece of treasure on a trail where he first met Genie and Amy, but who did it belong to? Should he find its rightful owner or would ‘finders keepers’ come to mind? Either way, it was a very valuable sapphire. Imagine what he could do with the money! As Amy sues Genie for a minor alpaca incident (it sounds crazy, I know) and Max gets caught in the middle, I could sense even more drama would unfold… but I secretly hoped it would for my reading pleasure!

Genie receives the news that her booked flight to Peru is cancelled due to covid restrictions, the new variant is wreaking havoc, and Max tells Amy he can’t act as a witness to the alpaca incident. It was clear there was more frustration and stress to be shared around all the main characters. I loved the drama, and all these unexpected events already created such a unique little story. The author writes each chapter so well and really makes it clear which character is being focused on at any one time. Writing three very different personalities so well can’t be easy, but he really has nailed it! I liked how Genie and Max’s friendship grew and that even though they were practically strangers at this point, they helped each other and were genuinely good people. With this story being completely different to others of its genre, I had no idea what could happen next, but I was really looking forward to following each of these characters’ journeys throughout the rest of the book. It was quite refreshing to read this book and not be able to compare it to any other book I’ve read!

The middle

Like Genie, Max begins pondering the meaning of life, and wishes to have a more interesting one than the life he’s living. The book certainly gets you thinking about your own life and the decisions you’ve made, and even places you in the shoes of the main characters. I was constantly thinking of the best routes for them to take and the best decisions to help them live a more fulfilled life. I loved feeling so involved! Meanwhile, Genie goes all ‘Behind Her Eyes’ on us and carries out some astral projection (if you’ve not seen Behind Her Eyes, I recommend you go check it out!) and this only added to the delightful quirkiness of the book. I found myself growing attached to these different characters in completely different ways, and they’d all been created and developed incredibly well so far. I did feel like some of the scenes in the book were quite odd or unexpected, but I felt this just gave the book more charm, something that many other books lack. It certainly was an interesting ride so far!

The book cleverly builds on its multicultural references and we read more about conflicting cultures and how this can effect different lives. We also see how jealousy and anger takes a hold of one particular character, and just why this character tries to jeopardise Max’s relationship. I particularly enjoyed seeing Max and Genie’s relationship thrive, even if this meant losing someone he probably wasn’t perfectly matched with. These two characters crave exploration and new beginnings, and their journey to New Mexico could be the first steps to that better life. I did find this part of the book whizzed by very quickly and to be honest, I felt like I was losing concentration a little here, but I wanted to hold on and see what Genie and Max experience in this new place. I wasn’t sure whether I felt this way because of a sudden change in perspective (from 1st to 3rd person) but I knew the author would have a reason for doing so. I was confident some other drama would be pulled out the bag soon enough to pull me back into the story!

“The lives we’re supposed to be living. It’s coercion. Our culture tries to turn us into something we can’t be.”

Amy follows Max and Genie to El Paso, and becomes obsessed with their lives. We learn about the things she’d done, including damage to Genie and Max’s cars, and I was starting to dislike (but LOVE) this character more and more as time went on! She’d really set out for revenge since the alpaca incident, and she wasn’t going to rest until she got some sort of compensation. In New Mexico, I did rather enjoy hearing about what Genie and Max got up to, and I liked how spontaneous they were becoming in their day to day activities. The description of Genie and Max’s trip just gets better and better; I could see what they saw around them, I could smell every scent that reached their nostrils and feel the hustle and bustle of the streets. Not to mention getting sucked into their deep conversations about life and what they’d do if they had their final 200 pesos! I have to say, I was incredibly impressed by how the author brings his readers this experience.

I loved reading the court case scene! I was called up for jury service a few years ago and absolutely loved the experience, so any book involving a court room and a judge goes down well for me. Even though this scene was a little short, I loved the character’s roles here, and especially loved how Amy reacts when the evidence presented proves that the alpaca ‘attack’ didn’t happen. However, the author cleverly made me feel sorry for this character, and after everything that’s happened in her life recently, she still couldn’t seem to catch a break. It still amazes me how an author can mess with your mind and sway your opinions on a character in such a short space of time! I was also happy for Genie with the outcome, but she still has more mess to sort out before she has a bit of breathing space. The middle of the book was filled with beautiful description, thought provoking discussions and more satisfying plot directions, and I was looking forward to seeing how the author rounded things off for these characters!

The end

Just as he finds himself feeling excited about future prospects, Max faces a real dilemma. His father loses his job and Max now has to look after his parents and reassure them that they will get through. Would he turn down the potential opportunity of a lifetime? Something that would be so good for him and something that would change his life? The story was very satisfying when it came to life changes, and these characters seem to have gone through so much to finally get themselves into the right mindset. The author balances the serious with the humorous incredibly well as we start to see exactly what Amy has got under her sleeve. Even though I wasn’t particularly keen on this character for the most part, I became very curious about her plans when we learn of what she buys online, and I was wondering what on earth she was going to do with her purchases. I could sense a grand finale from the author in just a few chapters!

Amy’s plan was very different to anything I could imagine, and I was shocked to see the lengths she’d go to to get revenge. After assuming Genie had pawned her locket, she sets to work breaking into her home and creating a little chaos. Don’t get me wrong, her plan was flawless, but it was also pure evil! I became a little nervous for how Genie would react to this incident when she returned, but she sees these things in a much better light, something that would probably frustrate Amy if she was a fly on the wall! Reading Genie’s point of view at this point made me love her even more – just how she sees the good in everything was so heartwarming and just solidifies the fact that she was a brilliant person with such an excellent mind. It was as though her own mindset had somehow transferred to Max too; Genie’s presence in his life had been so good for him, and he was starting to see so clearly. Could he live his life to the max and give it everything he’s got before it was too late to do so? I really hoped he could!

“Up until now, I thought I needed to search around to find my purpose, my next thing. I thought I needed to make some sort of radical change in my life in order to achieve it. But it turns out I was right where I was supposed to be all along.”

I felt a surprising amount of suspense as those final chapters came closer, and Amy’s new purchase of a gun set alarm bells ringing in my mind. Would a minor incident such as the alpaca ‘attack’ lead to taking a life? What had things come to?! I felt the need to protect Genie, Max and even little Evan at this point – Amy seemed like quite an unstable woman right now, and she needed help to get back to her normal self after her husband’s death. I felt really sorry for this character here, but also felt some hatred towards her as her thoughts of harming another developed. So many smaller parts of the story began to come together here and some of my questions were answered in surprising, yet welcoming ways. However, no matter how much I was enjoying the ending, there was still the uncertainty of Amy and that gun. As she follows Genie and her alpaca along a trail, my mind was coming up with all sorts of different conclusions for the book, but I was hoping it wouldn’t result in any brutal murder. (Surely not?!)

I really liked the ending chapters of this book; it puts so much into perspective and really left me on a high. Something I didn’t expect when a gun was involved not too long ago! The book revisits each character in turn, rounding up their stories as it does so and makes us realise just how far these characters have come and how much they’ve grown from that one afternoon in April. You know that emotional feeling you get when the ending of a book has just been written perfectly? Well expect that feeling when reading this one! The book is rounded off really well, with the perfect amount left to our imaginations. I sat in silence for a few moments after finishing the book to think about the stories of these characters and everything their journeys have taught me. I can’t thank the author enough for writing such a thorough story with so much heart. I’d thoroughly recommend this gem of a book and it’ll certainly be one for the re-read pile!

Overall thoughts

This book has to be one of the most bizarre yet uplifting reads I’ve ever read! It has an ‘everything happens for a reason’ vibe, and even though I don’t 100% agree with that statement usually, it’s really made me rethink and mull over my own life in such detail. I loved the sprinkling of comedy, the entertaining personalities of three brilliant characters and just how each of their paths cross, directing each other to be the best versions of themselves. Amy was an exceptional character, probably one of my favourites in all the books I’ve read this year, and the plot was incomparable to anything else. Themes of love, friendship and culture mixed with thought provoking character backstories and an incredible narrative make this book a must read.

A huge thanks to the author of the book, Pete KJ, for my copy of this book to read and review! You can purchase your own copy of One Afternoon In April over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback.

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