Between Here and April
Deborah Copaken Kogan’s novel Between Here and April begins with Elizabeth Burns, a modern New York journalist and mother of two young girls, recalling her first-grade friend April Cassidy’s sudden disappearance. As a child, Elizabeth accepted her teacher’s vague explanation that April would not return to school, but as an adult she is shocked by the brief newspaper articles summarizing the gruesome crime committed by April’s mother, Adele.
Unfulfilled with the “fluff” journalism that allows her flexible hours to raise her daughters, Elizabeth seizes on the challenge of investigating this story further. Kogan’s novel is at its best when Elizabeth speaks to Adele’s neighbors and even gains access to notes from her counseling sessions. Each revelation of the spiraling loneliness of Adele’s life as a wife and mother (made especially sympathetic by her doctor’s ignorance of post-partum depression) seems to illuminate the difficulty of Elizabeth’s own life. Her struggles with her career, marriage and sex life, rising childcare costs, and the pressures of motherhood illustrate the progress and enduring questions of mothers from different generations.
As the case stagnates, the author attempts to weave in increasingly complex threads from Elizabeth’s past. Her reunion with a past lover and a flashback to a turning point in Elizabeth’s journalism career in the Middle East seem to stray from the core themes of motherhood and self-identity in the novel where Kogan is most effective at blending the past and present. Elizabeth’s concerns about these more disparate aspects of her life seem less relatable, perhaps because they are so late introduced.
Overall, this was an interesting and thought-provoking read, shedding light on an aspect of motherhood, post-partum depression that is not always addressed openly. The construction of the plot at times lacks direction, but it is clear that Kogan has many interesting issues to write about, and we should look forward to more work from her in the future.