The Day After by Jerri Blair

★★★★  Beginning in the 1970’s in the wake of the free love movement and on the cusp of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, The Day After by Jerri Blair offers a unique perspective on time, history, and the nature of connection. In setting the stage for the novel, Blair describes the mass exodus of the hippies from their font in San Francisco—landing finally on the descriptions of Katimla—a gorgeous haven in the midst of the Oregon mountains—and the Om Ranch, which occupies the other side of the valley. Ma Bebe, the original settler of the eastern half of the mountain paradise and a “living monument to the pioneer spirit that changed the face of the Western United States,” remains at the center of the Katimla community, as the rest of the cast of characters accumulates around her—the first of which being Sherri and Randy. On the opposite side of the valley, at the Om Ranch, Garrison Kane has set in motion a series of experiments meant to expand human consciousness and tap into as-yet-unrealized metaphysical potential. Along with Garrison and his wife, Jane, the most influential participants in the commune culture of the Om Ranch are Michael and Laika, whose romance becomes a pivotal plot point. Throughout the course of the narrative, which spans from the early 1970’s up until nearly the present day, these characters shift, evolve, and take on unthinkable challenges as they traverse time and space and expand their minds in reasonably impossible ways. Bridging the divide that the valley both literally and metaphorically represents, Sherri and Randy and Laika and Michael explore and experience all of the turmoil, trials, and tribulations that the world has wrought over the past half century.

Because The Day After, whose title refers to an event that occurs on the day after the monumental 2016 election, touches on so many relevant political and sociological happenings that influenced the United States—and the world at large—over the last forty-plus years, its narrative scope is undeniably wide. And yet, its focus is narrow enough, drawing on relationships and tensions between two tiny communities, that the thread never becomes too strained to keep the story engaging and personal. It is in tying together two vastly ideologically different factions of a once very similar movement that the novel demonstrates how peace is possible in the present day, despite rising tensions. The Day After not only gives sweeping overviews of the day’s current events, ranging from popular and influential music to the political goings-on of the moment; it also lets its reader inside the minds of the main characters, devoting full chapters to first-person perspectives. In this way, it further deepens the connection that the reader has to the far-reaching implications of the book. The tale is one of peace, love, and hope for the future—something that hippies on either side of the Katimla valley could no doubt endorse, and it is for all of those reasons that The Day After bears several readings—at least.