Simon & Schuster UK has signed a two-book deal with Charlotte Leonard, acquiring an "ultimately hopeful" novel that explores male suicide.
The publisher bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the novel Afterwards, and a further untitled book, in a deal brokered by Jane Finigan of Lutyens & Rubinstein with Clare Hey, publishing director at S&S.
Afterwards was shortlisted for the 2020 Bath Novel Award under its original title, The Afterdrop.
S&S said tells a story about the difficult and important issue of male suicide, the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the UK, and what happens afterwards to those left behind.
Leonard said: "As the mother of three sons, I find the statistics around male suicide both shocking and terrifying. Male suicides are currently at their highest rate in two decades and newspapers are reporting celebrity suicides with distressing frequency. Just a few weeks after seeing Linkin Park play in 2017, Chester Bennington hanged himself. Our sons were deeply distressed that the singer had left behind six children and a wife who loved him. I suddenly found myself having conversations with our boys that I wasn't prepared for.
"As I did more research I realised just how many people I knew had lost a loved one to suicide and how much silence existed around these tragic deaths. I wanted to write something that would initiate more conversations and hopefully provide those left behind with a voice of their own."
The synopsis explains: "When Emma gets home after work one evening, she calls hello to her husband Jay, as she always does. Stepping into the kitchen, she sees he has done the shopping, as she had reminded him to; remembered to buy peppercorns; and has bought her flowers. Everything is neatly put away.
"But Jay is not there. He is upstairs. And he has ended his own life, seemingly out of nowhere and leaving no note to explain.
"A photographer, all Jay has left behind is his camera containing five photographs, which are unlike his other work. Desperately trying to comprehend the incomprehensible and struggling to cope in a house that no longer feels like home, Emma follows the images to Cornwall, beginning a journey in which old relationships are re-written and new ones are formed. As the visual mystery of each photograph unfolds, Emma finds herself unravelling and perilously close to breaking point. But could her unlikely salvation lie in the sea, a small community of swimmers and the promise of something Emma thought she didn’t want?
"Brilliantly written in refreshing and sharp prose, Afterwards is a powerful and emotionally raw novel but one with a good peppering of wit and a moving and ultimately uplifting heart. This is a book about sudden and unexpected, all-consuming grief, but it is also an exploration of the importance of human connections and a sense of belonging, especially in the context of surviving trauma and loss."
Commenting on the novel, Hey said: "Afterwards is an incredibly powerful story about an important subject that affects many people. Charlotte writes beautifully about grief and loss, but also gives us a message of community and hope too. I can’t wait to share Afterwards with readers.’
Finigan added: "I am delighted to have found such a wonderful home for this very special novel. Charlotte is a real talent and her ability to balance dark with light: balancing a harrowing opening with a genuinely uplifting and inspiring close, is so impressive. This is an important book and one which I’m very proud to be involved with."