In this second edition of The Best Book You're Not Reading, I give you Before After and Somebody in Between by Jeannine Garsee.
This is a little gem that was released in 2007 to very little fanfare by Bloomsbury USA. It tells the story of Martha Kowalski who lives with a drug addicted mom, an abusive stepfather and family upstairs that are involved in gangs. Martha is bullied at school. When Martha is taken away from her mom and sent to live in a foster home, in the suburbs, with a family who have it all. A nice house, money a mom and dad, but things aren't exactly as they seem in that house. There is a secret that is will tear that family apart and leave Martha with absolutely nothing at all.
If you've read Sara Zarr's, Story of a Girl, you'll love this book even more. Garsee creates rich characters that are so disturbed, you can't help but wonder if anyone can survive. The old adage that the grass is greener on the other side is so false that Garsee tells you that it's bullshit and you have to make your own green grass. There are no excuses with her characters, they are what they are and they have to fight to make the right choices. Martha has a gift with the cello and that just may be her saving grace.
Jeannine Garsee works in her real life as psychiatric nurse in a downtown Cleveland hospital, so she sees it all. She is great study of people with various mental illnesses and has her pulse on the life of the poor and downtrodden.
Amazon ranks Before, After or Somebody in Between at 1,301,468 in best selling ranking. This is a fantastic read that is gritty, dirty and hopeful.