In most biographies, an epilogue provides the story of what happens after the subject of the book has died or somehow left the scene. It’s a wrapping up, a life-after-life afterthought.

Will Boast, whose Power Ballads: Stories (2011) won the Iowa Short Fiction Award, cannily reverses this usual order by turning the epilogue into the entire story of his life until now. In Epilogue: A Memoir, Boast plunges into the depths of his own heart to probe the ragged mysteries that bring families together, hold them up through the years and cause them to fall apart.

Having already lost his younger brother to an auto accident and his mother to cancer, Boast, at 24, loses his father to complications of alcoholism. Muddling through his father’s papers, seeking consolation in women and wine and generally wondering what life will bring next, Boast stumbles upon secrets his parents had kept from him. He learns that his father had been married, with two sons, before he met and married Boast’s mother. As he attempts to get to know his half-brothers in England, he contemplates the light that these new relationships can shed on the truths of his own childhood, and he imagines rewriting his own family story.

Absorbing and agonizing at the same time, Boast’s narrative refuses to cover raw wounds, instead leaving them open to the fresh breezes of love and renewal that blow into his life after his father’s death.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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