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Author: at moments of crisis many of us turn towards faith or away from it

A fundraising event for a charity supporting survivors of the Rwandan genocide was the starting point for a novel exploring faith, betrayal and womanhood ...

Jemma Wayne gives the story behind her powerful novel After Before ...

Describe your novel briefly ...

After Before is an intimate, contemporary story of three women: a Rwandan refugee, a cancer sufferer, and a young Londoner trying to escape her wild youth by coming to faith. They are linked by different deep betrayals in their pasts that consume them, and stop them living. As their lives intersect, in an exploration of identity and modern womanhood, the relationships between them force a confrontation with their individual demons and unsnarl them from their pasts.

What inspired you to write the novel?

It began with the Rwandan thread. At an event for the charity SURF – a fund supporting survivors of the genocide – I was struck by the powerful sense of betrayal that seemed to be so enduring.

There was a lingering disbelief that in a community that had once been so integrated, still neighbour could have betrayed neighbour, friend betray friend. Days later and this idea was still with me – betrayal and how it can be tie you to the past. I started thinking about other kinds of betrayal: the betrayal of oneself, and the betrayal too by life, of things not turning out the way we believe it has been promised.

It was from here that After Before grew into what for me is truly a tripartite story exploring the power of betrayal, and the forgiveness necessary to move past it.

Christianity and faith are strong themes within the novel, why was it important for you to include this in After Before?

At moments of crisis many of us either turn towards faith or away from it, so it was important to me that each of my characters did this in some way.

For Emily, the Rwandan character, she is plagued by a sense of ‘where was He?’ During the genocide her trust in the Church was further shattered by the treacherous role played by some Hutu priests who, when turned to for refuge, were complicit in the genocide. Yet Emily survived, and as she battles to find hope again, part of her challenge is to reconcile her anger with her own survival.

But the main religious theme that ties together many of the novel’s strands, is the conflict between the constraining legalism of ‘religion’ and the freedom of faith. This is the struggle for Vera, the young Londoner who, consumed by guilt and exemplified at first by a common skepticism, is searching for a way to reclaim a sense of goodness.

I believe that ‘religion’ can betray and crush as much as faith can comfort and liberate. Vera’s encounter with God explores this tension. It is challenging, intense, and overwhelming. But ultimately, she is transformed.

  • Jemma Wayne is the author of After Before, published by Legend Press




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