Book Review – Before and After by Andrew Shanahan

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Ben is a 601lb man in his mid-twenties, living in a top floor flat. He hasn’t left his home in ten years and his only companion is his female Manchester Terrier called Brown.

Fed up with comments from strangers, Ben made the decision to become a shut-in some time ago and, until his mother died, he lived as well as he could, devouring Bourbon biscuits and running a successful business by phone and online.

However, when Ben’s diabetes becomes so advanced he has to undergo an amputation of his lower leg, suddenly his flat is full of medical and health and safety professionals, and he’s missing a wall so that a crane can be employed to get him to the hospital.

Things are pretty dire when suddenly, a call comes through and almost everybody leaves. Strapped tightly to a transportation board, Ben realises with mounting horror that something apocalyptic is happening down on the streets and he can’t move.

The question is: can Ben live off his body fat? And how long can he keep the monsters from the door?

I loved this story. It’s stunningly well-written with compassion and wry humour from start to finish. The characters are fully realised and compelling – I admired Ben all the way through for his humour and his devotion to is dog, Brown – the baddies felt very true to life, the grizzly bits were wonderfully icky. There were some incredible twists and one point which I won’t ruin for you but my jaw actually dropped open.

Seriously, read this.