The intricate bonds of female friendship is the focal point of Anton Disclafani’s new novel, The After Party.
Joan Fortier has it all. A Texas socialite, living the high life in 1950’s Houston, Joan is what every man desires and what every woman hates. Her blonde beauty, wealth, and magnetism make her one of the most revered women in her social circle, and everyone is sure Joan is the luckiest woman to grace the Houston social scene in decades.
Cece Beirne, now Buchanan, knows better. She has been Joan’s best friend since they were in elementary school, when they were known as Joan One and Joan Two, until a well-meaning Kindergarten teacher switches the dark-haired little girl’s name from Joan Two to Cecilia, the little girl’s middle name. The name sticks, and Cecilia (better known as Cece) begins her life as Joan’s faithful shadow.
Now in their twenties, Cece knows that Joan’s life is not everything it appears to be. Her strange and sudden disappearances along with her scandalous secret life, of which Cece has only gotten a disturbing glimpse, have only one constant element: that Cece will always be the one to go after her when she’s in trouble, and pick up the pieces if she needs to.
Cece’s devotion to Joan has been steady and constant. Even when her attention should be centered on her husband Ray and her young son Tommy, Joan’s problems and seemingly self-destructive tendencies always take center stage in Cece’s life. But theirs is more than a friendship, it’s a sisterly bond, cemented even more in their teenage years when Cece asks Joan to do something unspeakable that she herself can’t face doing.
Cece risks everything, her loving and caring husband, a son that she adores, to go after Joan yet again when she starts pulling away from their circle of friends, and from Cece herself. How far does friendship loyalty go? Will Cece have to give up the life she has made with Ray, her friends, her own son to protect Joan from her worst enemy: herself? Ray doesn’t approve of Cece’s running to Joan every time her friend is in trouble, but Cece can’t help herself. Her ties to Joan are stronger than Ray can ever imagine, and she will do anything to keep her friend out of trouble, even if it means putting her own marriage at risk.
Disclafani’s narrative is inviting and makes for a smooth read, much like one of Cece’s frequent gin martinis. The friendship between these two society belles, one blonde and extremely beautiful, the other dark but “pretty enough,” reveals that there is a lack of balance of affection between Cece and Joan; Cece always the one to look out for her friend, unable to stay away from her even when Joan bluntly asks her to.
Told from Cece’s point of view, The After Party will undoubtedly leave readers to ponder long after they’ve finished the book; how much friendship is too much? And if you love something so much, is it truly better to let it go?