This book is the story of the friendship between two girls named Joan. In kindergarten, their teacher decided that she couldn’t have two girls with the same name so she re-named the darker haired Joan, Cece, short for Cecelia, her middle name. Both girls were born in the wealthy Houston suburb of River Oaks. Most of the book takes place in 1957 with some flashbacks to earlier times. As young adults, Joan and Cece are still living in River Oaks where their time is taken up with social events, Junior League and garden parties. Joan is the toast of Houston society because of her beautiful blond looks and her sometimes outrageous, self-destructive behavior. Her older, wealthy parents have always indulged her. Cece is now married with a young son. She and Joan have been closer than sisters their entire lives and Cece has always protected Joan and watched out for her.
Joan has a habit of disappearing, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days or even longer. When she was a senior in high school, she ran away to Hollywood leaving Cece behind, to wonder why she left. Although she returns a year later, she was changed by her experience but she won\’t tell Cece what happened. Cece has an obsessive love for Joan and will drop anything for her. This is causing problems in her marriage and with some of her other friends. No one can understand their attachment.
Even though I have a few reservations about some aspects of this book, I really like a lot of things in it. The 1950\’s setting and look into the lives of the wealthy elite really pulled me into the story. I could feel how hot it was in Houston during the summer. Legendary places like The Shamrock Hotel and The Cork Club play a big role in this book. I could vividly picture them. Joan has secrets and I was anxious to discover what they are. Her behavior, mood swings, drinking, promiscuity and possible drug use are spiraling out of control but Cece is always right there to rescue her.
Despite all that they have gone through growing up, it was a little bit difficult to understand her pull on Cece, especially when Joan would drop her whenever it was convenient. Towards the end of the book when Joan reveals herself more fully, it took me by surprise and I\’m not sure that I can fully accept her explanation. However, I couldn’t stop reading! The ending left me with some unanswered questions. The After Party is a fascinating, addicting but somewhat sad look at two women and their lifelong bond of friendship.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book to review.