After the Parade
Sensitive, bighearted, and achingly self-conscious, forty-year-old Aaron Englund long ago escaped the confinements of his Midwestern hometown, but he still feels like an outcast. After twenty years under the Pygmalion-like care of his older partner, Walter, Aaron at last decides it is time to take control of his own fate. But soon after establishing himself in San Francisco, Aaron sees that real freedom will not come until he has made peace with his memories of Mortonville, Minnesota: a cramped town whose four hundred souls form a constellation of Aaron’s childhood heartbreaks and hopes.
After Aaron’s father died in the town parade, it was the larger-than life misfits of his childhood who helped Aaron find his place in a world hostile to difference. But Aaron’s sense of rejection runs deep: when Aaron was seventeen, Dolores—his loving yet selfish and enigmatic mother—vanished one night. And when, all these years later, a new friend in San Francisco offers Aaron a way to locate his mother, his past and present collide, forcing Aaron to rethink his place in the world.
“Touching and often hilarious…Ostlund writes with acuity and refreshing honesty about the messy complexity of being a social animal in today’s world…” (Booklist, starred review). “Everything here aches, from the lucid prose to the sensitively treated characters to their beautiful and heartbreaking stories…An example of realism in its most potent iteration: not a nearly arranged plot orchestrated by an authorial god but an authentic, empathetic representation of life as it truly is” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review). After the Parade is a glorious anthem for the outsider.
Reading Group Guide
Aaron Englund is in search of a new life in San Francisco. But before Aaron can begin his new life, he must leave his old one with Walter, his partner of twenty years. He does so by driving away in the dark of night—the same way Aaron’s mother abandoned him years earlier.
Aaron’s life is divided into a series of befores and afters. After Aaron’s father dies in a freak accident during a town parade when Aaron’s young and after Aaron’s mother abandons him at the age of seventeen, the changes in Aaron’s life are drastic. Even as an adult, the causes of these events—the befores—remain painful mysteries.
As Aaron struggles to settle into a new life in San Francisco, it becomes clear that until he has closure, he will not be able to move forward. When Aaron is unexpectedly given his mother’s address, he must decide if the pain of dredging up the past is worth the chance at a happier future. What follows is a stunning meditation on the ways the see more