Read the book that will change your life: After Everything

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Mar 05, 2024 / 0 comments

If you could only read one book in your lifetime, THIS is the one. After Everything, written by global educator, poet, writer, and coach Monna McDiarmid, is a gift. 

This book is EVERYTHING. 

Read the book that will change your life: After Everything

McDiarmid has given us a novel that is beautiful, important, and life-changing. 

It has completely enriched my life, and made me think hard about how to live with these tenets and wisdom in mind. 

It might be unusual to write a novel of what happens after death. With one large task to complete (being a Helper), partners Claire and Nobu pursue different paths to both help and find their story. 

With kindness, wisdom, and compassion, McDiarmid brings us along on an unusual story of the journey of finding ourselves.

I can't imagine my life without this story in will change yours, too. 

Highly, highly recommended. 

Author Monna McDiarmid. From Read the book that will change your life: After Everything

Monna McDiarmid is a writer, educator, and international school counselor who has worked at schools in Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and spent the last decade in Japan. She writes gentle stories for tender-hearted humans. She and her partner live in a tiny apartment in Yokohama, Japan and an old, wooden house in Nova Scotia, Canada.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Monna, and chat about this new book, inspiration, life after death, the writing and research process, and more. Here’s what she had to say…

Please tell us about your new book, After Everything...

Let’s start with the blurb: Not yet twenty, Claire wakes up in a green field to learn these three things: she is dead, the memories of her life are gone, and she and her new friend, Nobu, will be sent to Paris as Helpers. Apparently, she’s supposed to just accept this information and help humans in need, but doesn’t her old identity matter? Doesn’t someone, somewhere, miss her? Despite having her memory erased, Claire experiences mysterious phenomena that point towards her hidden past. As she pulls the threads that lead back to her life, Claire and Nobu unravel the seams between death and life, time, and space. What will Claire sacrifice to save the world?

Now, here's the thing, I’m a person with a sensitive nervous system which means I don't read what are, for me, scary stories including horror, thrillers, or even mysteries. I’m more of an Anne of Green Gables kind of reader/writer but when Claire showed up in my mind, I knew she was dead, that this story would take place in the afterlife, and that I was the right person to tell her story. Please know that I worked diligently to look after readers who are, like me, more sensitive humans.

What inspired you to write a book about a life's journey after death?

In the case of After Everything, I feel like this story picked me and when I said yes, I committed to telling Claire’s story to the best of my ability. We begin on her very worst day; she has died and lost all the memories of her life. This is also, however, the first day of the rest of her existence and I was curious about what she wanted and what she was capable of learning and creating even though she was no longer human. 

Also, I lost my sweet father eighteen months ago so I’m more aware that while death ends a life, it doesn’t end the relationship you had with that person. 

I love how After Everything is set in several locales. The Parisian setting is deeply integrated into the plot. Can you talk about the importance of setting, and why you chose these places?

As an international educator and school counselor working outside Canada for the past twenty-two years, I have been shaped by all five countries my partner and I have called home. While I’ve enjoyed the aspects of these cultures that appear at the top of the metaphorical iceberg, like food, fashion, and festivals, the great gift of living abroad has been the profound lessons in perspective-taking. Travelling and living abroad teaches us that there is more than just one way to do something or think about an issue, and that people in other regions and countries have different deeply held values and beliefs. When living abroad, you are invited listen carefully with the goal of deeper understanding.

Yes, Paris is at the heart of this story. We lived for three years in Barcelona, Spain, which also has a cameo in the novel, and had the opportunity to travel to Paris several times. Certain cities seem magical, and Paris is one of those places for me. Since Claire and Nobu are coming to terms with their own deaths, and are asked to help humans on earth, I wanted to provide them a soft landing in the form of a city filled with beauty. There's a bookstore called Colette and Company where Claire and Nobu create a kind of after-hours home. We visit Notre Dame, eat roast chicken, and sit in the heavy green metal chairs in The Tuileries. It was important, for me, that the reader be transported to Paris, and have the same rich sensory experience that Claire and Nobu are having. 

Claire, Nobu, and Coach also spend some time in Lunenburg, a charming and historic town near our home on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. London, the fourth location, is the city I know least well but it was the perfect setting for what it needed to convey. Anything more would be a spoiler.

What might readers be surprised to discover about your writing and research process?

Readers might be surprised to know that After Everything began as a project for National Novel Writing Month in 2015. It’s not the same book as the one I started writing nine years ago and is, I think, lovelier, more meaningful, and better written as a result of the journey I've been on as a person and a writer. Working on this novel during the early days of the pandemic helped me understand the existential anxiety Claire feels at the beginning of the novel. Ultimately, I really love when humans set out to do a BIG THING they don't know how to do yet and, somehow, the act of writing this book taught me how to write this book.

There was also part of me that was afraid to put my novels into the world. If I could go back and talk with my sweet past self, I would urge her to let go of her perfectionism and fear faster. That is also, not coincidentally, what I would say to your readers about whatever they dream of creating. Published books are those written by writers who refused to give up.

One of my favorite parts of the book was Claire's journey of finding herself again. What do you hope readers take from reading (and, perhaps resonating) with this?

The most important idea I hope readers will take from Claire’s journey is that when we face challenges and uncertainty, we are able to gather our powers including the wisdom of all our previous selves as well as the help of others. When we’re scared, it can seem impossible to trust ourselves, but people are much stronger and more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. In my work as a high school counselor, I’ve seen so much evidence of people’s ability to heal and thrive.

What's up next for you? 

Although After Everything is a stand-alone novel, it is linked to my first novel, The 38 Impossible Loves of Naoko Nishizawa. They are siblings in a series called Possible Loves. I’m currently working on the third novel in this linked series, and it will be published in fall 2024. 

In March, I will be recording an audiobook of After Everything that will be released as a podcast. 

Finally, I’m also brainstorming a fantasy book that makes me smile every time I think of it, as well as a non-fiction book.

How can people find your work? 

There are three places where people can find me:
Instagram at Monna McDiarmidWrites (In my bio, you can find links to my books)
My website:


Jessie Voigts is the publisher of Wandering Educators. She has a PhD in International Education, has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way.

Jessie is one of the top 50 travel bloggers in the world, and was named a White House travel blogger with her site, Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world. She is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, and is passionate about study abroad and international education. 

All photos courtesy and copyright Monna McDiarmid, published with permission.