After You’ve Gone is the story of two generations of musicians, a jazz grandmother and a punk granddaughter, who each struggle with balancing life, love, and art in their respective eras. The novel opens in 2007 with Elsa Taggart and her ex-husband watching their son’s convocation from Seattle University. The events that bring about this everyday moment are unveiled in a series of spirited flashbacks that move convincingly between Elsa and her grandmother. Lita and Elsa’s lives are revealed in a procession of parallel events.
In 1935 Regina, Lita, a young woman of gypsy ancestry, develops a passion for playing the guitar. Encouraged and wide-eyed she joins a Regina jazz combo and begins a life that she couldn’t imagine and didn’t expect. From the first moment that she falls in love with the group’s lead singer, to the dark moment of his death, Lita’s fate is sealed.
In paralleled abandon, Elsa in 1983 has become the lead singer/songwriter and guitarist of Speed Queen, a Regina punk band. Her boyfriend Mark Taggart is also in a punk band. In love with the music scene, with each other, and their new baby, they decide their musical prospects would be better in Seattle than in Regina, a move that will prove to bring about significant changes.
Though fifty years exist between Lita and Elsa, their circumstances reflect and conform to the lives they have chosen. The daunting risks of the musician’s life coupled with the pursuit of intimate relationships lead to the heartache and grief that comes with such adventure. The pain of rejection and betrayal has to be managed, just as the responsibility of commitments must be maintained.
“After You’ve Gone vibrates with authenticity: two eras, two young women caught up in the giddy thrall of love and music and feckless men.” — Lee Kvern, author of The Matter of Sylvie and Seven Ways to Sunday
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