Review: After She Falls by Carmen Schober
Updated: Dec 22, 2021
#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Synopsis: In a frantic escape from an abusive marriage, Adri Rivera stumbles, daughter in tow, back into her hometown, hoping for a fresh start. Will she be able to bypass the aching memories—particularly those of her childhood friend Max—to grasp a peaceful future and chase her dreams?
Favorite Quote: “Just keep the Lord in front of you, honey. Ask God what he wants you to do, then do that, one thing at a time.”
In today’s episode of Grace Unfiltered™ (which is, yes, gonna be a real thing...eventually), we’re bringing Carmen Schober’s debut novel, After She Falls, to the butchering counter discussion table. This is a novel of pain. It’s a novel of healing. It’s a novel of dreams. It’s a novel of nightmares. It’s…
Really not all I’m making it out to be.
Now, After She Falls has potential. It, like, oozes potential. A novel about about a female MMA fighter? With a pinch of romance and lots of fighting? And chock-full of Rocky references?
How could it possibly fall flat?
One word: Max.
Not that I’m blaming it all on him...but it’s totally his fault. It just is.
Why, you ask? Well, it all began on a dark and stormy night…
No, not really. It actually began once Adri returns to her hometown and instead of inviting us on her journey of healing, restoration, and finding God, we get front-row seats to watch the drama between her and Max unfold.
Y’all know I like romance. And that’s the understatement of the year. I LOVE romance, and it’s like pulling teeth to get me to read anything without romance in it.
But y’all know what hurts worse than something completely devoid of all romance?
A crappily-written romance. Some novels are simply better without any traces of it at all, instead focusing on the characters’ inner journeys, the plot, action and adventure, mystery—any of that.
This was one such novel.
Adri was in too much pain, not even divorced yet, and here she was making eyes at some dude she hasn’t seen for years. On top of that, the dude is a drunk, a fighter, and has no respect for women. HOW WAS HE ANY DIFFERENT THAN OWEN? Just because he’s never hit a woman yet doesn’t mean he won’t get drunk and ticked off at one eventually! (Because, seriously, this dude has anger issues and can hold a grudge like ain’t nobody’s business.)
I’m sorry, but Max had ZERO redeeming qualities. None. Zilch. Nada. And his “romance” with Adri was full of arguing, hating, making out, more arguing, fighting, more making out, and topped off with a hefty dose of lust. That was not what she needed after getting out of an abusive relationship, and it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to be entertained by.
There was no emotional connection between the two. No development. No real love. Maybe on Adri’s part, in her naivete, but not Max.
I just...I didn’t buy it. And I certainly didn’t like Max. Had he not existed, I might’ve liked Adri more, gotten into the story, and even given it four stars.
But, y’know, Max.
Also, his “redemption arc” was virtually nonexistent. All of a sudden, he’s reading the Bible and being nice, and Adri’s good with it. Nope. I need at least a year’s worth of total devotion to the Lord. And there’s no realistic way that the dude just up and decided to “do things right” after doing things wrong for his entire adult life. Yes, Jesus changes you. But you also have to actually accept Him, commit to Him, seek Him, and wrestle with your flesh daily. Max...I dunno...I just didn’t get to see him accept Christ and he certainly didn’t seem to do much wrestling. Not the most realistic, if you ask me.
Anyway. I think that takes care of Max.
As for Adri, believe me when I tell y’all I wanted to like her. I really did. And for a few moments, she’d start to grow on me...but then you-know-who would show up and totally ruin Adri for me. Her personality was kind of hard to pinpoint, and honestly, I couldn’t detect that “fire” Roman claimed to see in her. Selfishness, yeah. For example, in speaking of the championship match, Adri thinks: “Her dream is right in front of her, and Gemma’s just in the way.” It broke my heart to think that, after all of this, Adri’s dream wasn’t to give her daughter a better life, to find peace, to be healed, or to grow closer to God. It was to win a fight. That was the culmination of this novel—a fight.
If this were Rocky, it’d be one thing. Rocky didn’t just escape from an abusive marriage with a young daughter before meeting Apollo in the ring. Rocky’s story wasn’t rife with emotional turmoil and relationship issues. (I mean, yes, there was Adrian, but a few turns around the skating rink and a visit to the zoo was the gist of that.)
This, however, was Adri Rivera, a college-age girl who was lost and lonely and needed Jesus. Instead of seeking Him, serving Him, and relying on Him, she pinned her...everything…on herself and, of all people, the almighty Max. (Who, might I add, was even more selfish than her and wanted nothing more than for Adri to do his bidding rather than him sacrificing for her and building her up.)
I am glad that Adri did turn to God, that she established boundaries and strove to remain within them, but I feel like so much from missing from her spiritual journey (yeesh, that sounds so New Age, but you know what I mean). And it seemed like every time Yvonne and Roman (both of whom I adored, by the way) said something deep and inspiring, Adri let it go in one ear and out the other. Their advice never made much of an impact.
On top of all that, the third-person POV in present-tense was SO jarring. I’ve never read anything written like that, and it gave me a deeper connection to everything going on in the “physical realm” (i.e., the action) but distanced me so much from Adri and Max. I couldn’t connect with either of them at all, because I was held at arm’s length. And not in a delicate Jane Austen omniscient manner, but in a push-me-down-every-time-I-try-to-get-close manner.
Were it not for the third-person present-tense, Schober’s writing would’ve been fine! Everything was technically spot-on; in-scene pacing was good; and descriptions were balanced. Speaking of pacing, I really didn’t like how, from a broader perspective, the story would skip months at a time. I felt like I was missing so much.
Lastly, my final qualm was the content. I’m surprisingly very tolerant of a lot of things—alcohol/tobacco content; violence, fighting, gore; prostitution; the list goes on—however, I felt slightly disturbed by some of the content in here. Now, nothing was very graphic, but the way it was depicted was so casual and sometimes even positive. There was no guilt or shame on the main characters’ parts and no mention of God’s guidelines concerning things like drunkenness, sex outside of marriage, etc. (Which, on top of being disturbing and unbiblical, really made the romance seem dirty.) Furthermore, I didn’t like how divorce was celebrated. I know views on divorce differ, and if we wanna get into it, yes, it was a good thing that Adri escaped an abusive marriage, but…
(There’s always a but.)
The Bible makes it clear of God’s idea of marriage and divorce. Jesus stated in Matthew, chapter 19: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” When Jesus was then asked why Moses allowed them the ability to divorce their wives, He replied, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Because of this, I see divorce as against God’s design and something to mourn. It is, after all, the end of a marriage and thereby a symbol of death. ‘Til death do them part, after all. Divorce on grounds of adultery is one thing—it’s quite obvious the marriage died the moment one or both spouses committed adultery—but remarriage after divorce regardless of the circumstances is basically the same thing.
See my point?
So, yes, it broke my heart to see how everyone threw divorce around so casually and almost gleefully, as if it were of no consequence.
And why do I feel like I’m critiquing this book as if it were real life instead of mere fiction?
Probably because I am, thanks to my tendency to get a little too involved in what I read.
I think I’ve finally covered all the bases, though. Long story short, once you separate the book from the characters, the plot, and the content, you’re left with a book that’s kind of a struggle to read. Had it not been for the third-person and present-tense combo and the skipping around, it would’ve been a more enjoyable read—and therefore easy to connect with the characters and become immersed in the story. Overall, it had potential. The execution was just really off.
Well, thank y’all for tuning into today’s episode of Grace Unfiltered™! Maybe my next review will be full of gushing and fangirling—I sure could use a break from all this negativity! (Y’all see now why I went so long without ever writing a negative review...I have strong opinions, folks.)
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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About the Author
Carmen Schober is a debut novelist, wife, full-time mother to two daughters, avid boxer, and Rocky enthusiast. A graduate of Kansas State University, where she earned a master's degree in English literature and creative writing, she currently lives in Manhattan, Kansas. She has published sports fiction in Witness magazine and Hobart Pulp, and she regularly blogs about faith, family, and fighting at www.carmenschober.com.