After Alice

Written by Gregory Maguire
Review by Arleigh Johnson

A whimsical sequel to Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this story’s focus is on Ada—Alice’s curly-haired friend of the same age mentioned in the original. From the neighboring vicarage, Ada slips out of sight of her stern governess, Miss Armstrong and, after stumbling across Alice’s sister, Lydia, falls into the same rabbit hole that Alice disappeared into not long before.

Ada, finding her physical ailments have disappeared in this strange new world, gleefully discards her posture-correcting device and sets out to find her friend. Taking each fantastical character she meets with surprising equanimity, she is quickly endeared to readers despite her less-than-encouraging previous descriptions. Meanwhile, another child visiting Alice’s home gets stuck inside a mirror, bringing Carroll’s story, Through the Looking Glass, into play. Siam is a runaway slave in the care of an abolitionist American who, along with an elderly Charles Darwin, is visiting Alice’s father. Ada and Siam meet up and make their way to the garden party to find Alice, while the adults begin searching the grounds and town for the missing children.

Told in several voices – Ada, Miss Armstrong, Lydia, and Siam – readers get a clear view of each character’s background and thoughts, which relate interestingly to the original stories. Gregory incorporates Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Darwin’s theories and both Lewis Carroll works into this literary nonsense genre mashup, masterfully combining his own curious, but inspiring musings eloquently with a diverting plot. Short chapters and frequent narration changes give much needed breaks owing to the heavy verses that are nonetheless natural enough and cleverly executed.