After the Fire is a slow-paced, introspective little book that suffers from bait and switch marketing. The book description outlines a basic lesbian romantic plot: brokenhearted dumpee retreats to a beautiful location and meets a lovely but mysterious woman.
I would not be surprised if fans of Rule's other books thought they were purchasing a torrid lesbian romance--the packaging certainly leads you to think that's what this is. Instead, After the Fire is a character driven novel about the emotional lives of women in their youth, midlife, and older years with virtually no romantic story at all. I don't recall any of the many characters even going on a date. Furthermore, while one of the primary characters is a lesbian, almost all of the others are straight.
Having said all this, what the book does have is a moving story about dealing with grief, loss and aging. Half-Japanese Karen, the dumpee, moves to a mostly white, mostly straight island to lick her wounds a rebuild her sense of self. Along the way she meets women of all ages who gradually move from secondary character status to becoming a huge part of Karen's life. The multigenerational friendships that form are far from the usual mother-daughter bond. Very well drawn and probably my favorite part of this book. A warning: This is not an action-packed book. Nothing much happens to the women in this small town, but the characters are interesting enough to draw you in anyway.