“After Elias” by Eddy Boudel Tan— A Pilot’s Last Words

Tan, Eddy Boudel. “After Elias”, Dundurn, 2020.

A Pilot’s Last Words

Amos Lassen

Eddy Boudel Tan’s “After Elias” is amodern queer tragedy about a pilot’s last words, an interrupted celebration, and the fear of losing everything.

When the airplane piloted by Elias Santos crashes a week before their wedding day, Coen Caraway loses the man he loves and the illusion of happiness he has worked so hard to find. Elias only leaves behind a recording of his final words, and Coen is stymied by the cryptic message. Coen is filledwith grief and seeks solace on the Mexican island that was meant to host their wedding. As parts of the past come to the surface, Coen is forced to question everything he thought he knew about Elias and their life together. He learns the truth about Elias and about himself. This is a story of doubt, regret, and the fear of losing everything

Coen tries to cope with grief in his own way but then devastating truths began to surface . There are many heartbreaking moments, often balanced with humor, and  there are some interesting twists along the way. While this is a book about death, it is also about hope.  

The events that follow the crash reinforce (the suspicion cast on Elias after a mysterious message is revealed, Coen’s determination to proceed with the wedding as a celebration of life despite everyone’s apprehensions. There were memories that allude to a darker truth and the story moved forward in ways that were shocking, exciting, and impossible to predict. The writing is gorgeous and the characters are well drawn and show depth.

We find ourselves falling in love with some characters, and then fall out of love, then fall back into a complicated sort of love with them. This is a story of healing and realizing that all our loved ones are far more complicated than we would like to think. The narration shifts between past and present and we see why Coen fell in love with Elias even as his reputation falls apart in the present and doubt creeps into Coen’s thoughts. 

I must admit that I started questioned whether Elias was ever even a good person to begin with. But I realized that it is hard to ever know anyone fully and when we see that everyone has flaws. Coen’s learns that healing requires us to face pain. 

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