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After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges out of the woods and into the lives of those same boys' families--a moving and hopeful novel about forgiveness and human connection. In misty, coastal Washington State, Isaac lives alone with his dog, grieving the recent death of his teenage son, After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges out of the woods and into the lives of those same boys' families--a moving and hopeful novel about forgiveness and human connection. In misty, coastal Washington State, Isaac lives alone with his dog, grieving the recent death of his teenage son, Daniel. Next door, Lorrie, a working single mother, struggles with a heinous act committed by her own teenage son. Separated by only a silvery stretch of trees, the two parents are emotionally stranded, isolated by their great losses--until an unfamiliar sixteen-year-old girl shows up, bridges the gap, and changes everything. Evangeline's arrival at first feels like a blessing, but she is also clearly hiding something. When Isaac, who has retreated into his Quaker faith, isn't equipped to handle her alone, Lorrie forges her own relationship with the girl. Soon all three characters are forced to examine what really happened in their overlapping pasts, and what it all possibly means for a shared future. With a propulsive mystery at its core, What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. It is a deeply moving account of strangers and friends not only helping each other forward after tragedy, but inspiring a new kind of family.


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After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges out of the woods and into the lives of those same boys' families--a moving and hopeful novel about forgiveness and human connection. In misty, coastal Washington State, Isaac lives alone with his dog, grieving the recent death of his teenage son, After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges out of the woods and into the lives of those same boys' families--a moving and hopeful novel about forgiveness and human connection. In misty, coastal Washington State, Isaac lives alone with his dog, grieving the recent death of his teenage son, Daniel. Next door, Lorrie, a working single mother, struggles with a heinous act committed by her own teenage son. Separated by only a silvery stretch of trees, the two parents are emotionally stranded, isolated by their great losses--until an unfamiliar sixteen-year-old girl shows up, bridges the gap, and changes everything. Evangeline's arrival at first feels like a blessing, but she is also clearly hiding something. When Isaac, who has retreated into his Quaker faith, isn't equipped to handle her alone, Lorrie forges her own relationship with the girl. Soon all three characters are forced to examine what really happened in their overlapping pasts, and what it all possibly means for a shared future. With a propulsive mystery at its core, What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. It is a deeply moving account of strangers and friends not only helping each other forward after tragedy, but inspiring a new kind of family.

30 review for What Comes After

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Oh boy! Another book made me feel like somebody sledgehammered my heart at least dozen times and torn it apart, crushed it with a giant truck’s tires and left it to root at the crime scene! It might look like over exaggerated definition but I’m truly overwhelmed and I need to wear mask to cover my entire face ( also I need to wear it at home to protect my besties who stop by and husband dearest from screaming! My face is too blotchy, swollen, resembling adult Yoda ( Jon Favreau can choose me to Oh boy! Another book made me feel like somebody sledgehammered my heart at least dozen times and torn it apart, crushed it with a giant truck’s tires and left it to root at the crime scene! It might look like over exaggerated definition but I’m truly overwhelmed and I need to wear mask to cover my entire face ( also I need to wear it at home to protect my besties who stop by and husband dearest from screaming! My face is too blotchy, swollen, resembling adult Yoda ( Jon Favreau can choose me to play his oldest self at Mandalorian but I hope he won’t puke on me as soon as he sees the last condition of my face! ) This book is not everyone! It makes you feel TOO MUCH! It’s extremely intense! And if you lost your loved ones recently ( you know what it doesn’t change anything you lost them recently or long time ago: the pain you suffer never lessens , it just develops but it still hurts like hell! ) you have to think it twice before starting to read it! Even though I heard those alarm bells warm me to stay away because this book is more than a regular tear jerker, heart wrenching novel : I kept reading. I couldn’t stop myself. I let my tears fall! I let my screams cut the silence! I let myself fall apart! Because the characters were so real, so genuine and their experiences are so familiar! The different and beautiful characters interwoven stories hook you up, move under your skin and capture your heart! Grief, web of secrets, building rage, abandonment, abuse : those are triggering subjects of the book but you already know what you’re getting yourself into from the beginning. You truly ache for Evangeline who is dealt with one of the shittiest hand, suffering from so many traumatic experience who is only 16. And we’re introduced to 50 years old Isaac who loses his only son Daniel who is killed brutally and Isaac learns to face his true nature and faults of his son. And you may feel deeply sorry for Lorrie who lost his first son when he was a baby and now loses his other son to suicide. There are so many more memorable characters and when you read some chapters, you feel your heart is bleeding for them. It’s so realistic, earth shattering, soul crushing. Even it hurt me extremely I cannot help myself and give my five OMG what I just read, it was written amazingly but I think I cannot open my red rimmed eyes for two days stars! Special thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP/ Riverhead Books for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael David

    April BOTM selection. A powerful story about loss, grief, hope, and forgiveness. Isaac is a 50-something year old who lives alone with his dog, Rufus. Next door to him is Lorrie, who lives with her teenaged daughter. They used to be close, and will always be connected by grief after the shocking deaths of their respective sons, Daniel and Jonah...who were best friends. Evangeline is a pregnant 16-year old. Due to difficult circumstances, she is also homeless. She ends up in Isaac’s yard. One thing April BOTM selection. A powerful story about loss, grief, hope, and forgiveness. Isaac is a 50-something year old who lives alone with his dog, Rufus. Next door to him is Lorrie, who lives with her teenaged daughter. They used to be close, and will always be connected by grief after the shocking deaths of their respective sons, Daniel and Jonah...who were best friends. Evangeline is a pregnant 16-year old. Due to difficult circumstances, she is also homeless. She ends up in Isaac’s yard. One thing leads to another, and he lets her stay with him. Soon, Lorrie ends up befriending her too. What neither Isaac or Lorrie realizes is that Evangeline has secrets that tie into their grief, but may ultimately help heal them. What Comes After is a domestic drama with a touch of mystery in the way that the story unfolds from multiple viewpoints and past/present timelines. It’s incredibly moving and gripping, with intriguing characters whose flaws are hardly concealed. While the pace isn’t breakneck, that works in favor here as it gives the reader time to absorb the rich and atmospheric story. Subtle nuances help create an absorbing tale of loss and sadness, joy and hope, and healing. I wasn’t aware of the trigger warnings going in, and may not have read the book if I’d known. (Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know what they are) TW: Animal cruelty, a violent and graphic hunting scene, death of animals, and suicide. I am still glad that I read this powerful story even if some sections were extremely hard to get through. Available now from Riverhead Books. Review also posted at: https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com

  3. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    "Every mother screws up her children one way or another. It's up to you whether you stay that way." I don't remember the last book that I had a hard time reading the final pages due to ugly crying. I had no idea when I picked this one up what I was in for - it moved me beyond words, and days later, here I am still thinking about its message. I don't usually go overboard re-hashing plots, as you can find those everywhere, but as this is an early 2021 release that I hadn't heard much about, I think "Every mother screws up her children one way or another. It's up to you whether you stay that way." I don't remember the last book that I had a hard time reading the final pages due to ugly crying. I had no idea when I picked this one up what I was in for - it moved me beyond words, and days later, here I am still thinking about its message. I don't usually go overboard re-hashing plots, as you can find those everywhere, but as this is an early 2021 release that I hadn't heard much about, I think it's a bit more fitting here. The book opens in the aftershock of the death of two teenage boys in the Pacific Northwest. Isaac, dad of Daniel, is reeling from a recent divorce and now the death of his son. He finds himself living alone with his dog, Rufus (hands down, the best book dog ever). Next door neighbor and working single mother, Lorie, is struggling to comprehend the heinous act committed by her own teenage son, Jonah. Isaac and Lorie are emotionally stranded — until a fiery, homeless teenage girl, Evangeline, shows up and changes everything. Evangeline is clearly hiding something, but Isaac takes her in anyway. Isaac, a rather stoic high school teacher, with deep Quaker faith, soon finds himself over his head, and reaches out to Lorrie for help. Soon all three of them are forced to examine the events in their overlapping pasts, and what it all possibly means for a shared future. While there is a mystery at the core of the book, the book is also a masterful foray into loss and anger, and the powerful life-changing effects of kindness, hope, and forgiveness. The exploration of the Quaker faith is interesting and lays the perfect foundation for many elements of the book. The characters are so rich - I hurt for every single one of them at one point or another. Things are not always as they appear on the surface and life experiences, good or bad, go far in shaping mental, physical, and spiritual health. I also loved, loved, loved the dog, Rufus, in this book! I thought Tompkins was spectacular at weaving the complex emotions of the characters around the dog's actions and characteristics. If I could give this book 10 stars, I would. I believe this is a debut work for Tompkins, which is mind-blowing to me; however, after reading her bio and seeing that her inspiration comes from being a mediator and a judicial officer, it is little wonder that she nails the elements of human resiliency and forgiveness. This book truly spoke to my soul, and I hope it's a huge success for Tompkins. All the stars!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    5 stars - no question. This was an extremely powerful book and I'm kind of scratching my head at how brilliant it was. It's a debut no less! With that said, I want to make my book friends know that while I enjoyed this book immensely, it is very dark at times and there are a lot of trigger warnings. (Please feel free to reach out to me if you're concerned and would like to know a little more before you read.) At first, I thought this was a literary mystery, but now that I've finished I wouldn't co 5 stars - no question. This was an extremely powerful book and I'm kind of scratching my head at how brilliant it was. It's a debut no less! With that said, I want to make my book friends know that while I enjoyed this book immensely, it is very dark at times and there are a lot of trigger warnings. (Please feel free to reach out to me if you're concerned and would like to know a little more before you read.) At first, I thought this was a literary mystery, but now that I've finished I wouldn't consider it one and would put it solidly in the literary fiction genre. I finished this book almost two weeks ago, but I've wanted to sit with my thoughts for a little while before I wrote my review. As you're reading it, you have such a sense of increasing foreboding as you go and there were times when I almost needed to take an emotional break before I pressed on. I cringed a lot too because there are things the characters do and say that made me uncomfortable. (Which is okay.) I don't want to give away anything with the plot, but I will say that despite the slower pacing (which didn't bother me), the payoff was huge at the end. I'm very down right now on what I see happening to our country as a whole. We're divided, turning against one another and lack an overall sense of looking out for others like we do ourselves. I think this book is an extension of all of these themes. Good people who are struggling with demons and for one reason or another turn on their neighbor. I think the author did a fantastic job balancing this fact with that of how we come out on the other side. I can't wait for her next book and I am so thrilled BOTM chose this to feature. Thanks to Netgalley, Riverhead books and the author for an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. Another home run for Riverhead Books. Review Date: 04/27/2021 Publication Date: 04/13/2021

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa of Troy

    Here is my one-minute spoiler-free video review: https://youtu.be/-bpUWG1sotk What Comes After is the debut novel by JoAnne Tompkins set in Washington State. A town is reeling from the loss of two teenage boys involved in a murder suicide. Mysteriously, a pregnant teenage girl emerges from the woods with secrets. Homeless, she finds herself residing with Isaac, one of the fathers of the deceased teenage boys. This is a story of the power of silence and facing hard truths. This book was on my Top 1 Here is my one-minute spoiler-free video review: https://youtu.be/-bpUWG1sotk What Comes After is the debut novel by JoAnne Tompkins set in Washington State. A town is reeling from the loss of two teenage boys involved in a murder suicide. Mysteriously, a pregnant teenage girl emerges from the woods with secrets. Homeless, she finds herself residing with Isaac, one of the fathers of the deceased teenage boys. This is a story of the power of silence and facing hard truths. This book was on my Top 10 Most Anticipated Reads of 2021, largely because it was recommended to anyone who loved Where the Crawdads Sing. This book did have many similarities with Where the Crawdads Sing while it also had key differences. Check out my video comparing these two books here: https://youtu.be/20i14_hEzkA This book took a risk by not going the route of a traditional coming of age story or breaking out the traditional damsel in distress storyline. Instead, it focused on forgiveness, facing hard truths (things that are difficult to see or admit), and new beginnings. Additionally, Isaac is a Quaker who turns to his faith to process the loss of his son. The only Quaker that I can remember reading about was Alice in the book Christy so it was interesting to learn more about that faith and the power of waiting for answers and being comfortable with silence. However, there were a few points where I would have revised the book. The first: Evangeline was not written as a very innocent character and did not resonate with me as much as Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing. One scene that I would cut was the flashback to the time with Evangeline’s mom (trying not be spoil anything…). Also, there were a couple of things that didn’t really move the story along but were very polarizing: there were a couple of paragraphs about a dog (again trying not to spoil anything) and there was a VERY graphic description of hunting. Overall, this book was really great. I would love to read it again, and I can’t wait for my pre-order to arrive because I look forward to reading it again. *Thanks NetGalley for providing this ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) at no charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bree Chairez

    I had a lot of hope for this book, and although it had a really good story line to make it go places, I felt like the author writing style was really bland. I was not excited, not invested in the characters, or anxious to find out what would happen next. I did cry during the dying dog part, I was more invested in Rufus story and his impact then the actual story itself lol Although I do love Isaac character and his ability to forgive, and love/accept a stranger especially one as ill mannered and ba I had a lot of hope for this book, and although it had a really good story line to make it go places, I felt like the author writing style was really bland. I was not excited, not invested in the characters, or anxious to find out what would happen next. I did cry during the dying dog part, I was more invested in Rufus story and his impact then the actual story itself lol Although I do love Isaac character and his ability to forgive, and love/accept a stranger especially one as ill mannered and bad tempered as 16 year old Evangline (love the name). I wanted desperately for Isaac and Lorrie story to unfold into a love story that brought some happiness and wholeness back into their families lives, but again was sold short. Overall, just did not live up to my expectations. Maybe because I read "The Wife Upstairs" before this one and was blown away, so its hard to come back from that, I could be passing harsh judgment tho.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Al Bergstein

    A powerful book that draws you in from the opening sequences and carries you along through a deftly crafted story unfolding in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. The story is one of redemption and healing in troubled times. The title is the focus of the book, it's "what comes after" a horrible event in the lives of a community. It's not about the act that opens the book. Very relevant to who we are as a society today. The book is a psychological drama. I've read other reviews that call it a A powerful book that draws you in from the opening sequences and carries you along through a deftly crafted story unfolding in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. The story is one of redemption and healing in troubled times. The title is the focus of the book, it's "what comes after" a horrible event in the lives of a community. It's not about the act that opens the book. Very relevant to who we are as a society today. The book is a psychological drama. I've read other reviews that call it a thriller, and Amazon and others describe it that way, but it really isn't a traditional thriller. And though it includes a character who is modern Quaker, it's not a "religious" book. Regardless it's a beautiful story, extremely well written. Now that it's "published" I can say that it's the best book of 2021 in my opinion. But we do have a number of months to go!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Max

    I absolutely love Evangeline's relationship with both Isaac and Lorrie, and it's easily the most character-driven book I've read all year. Characters only second to Rufus the dog, of course. I wouldn't agree with Goodreads putting "Mystery" as this book's second genre, it definitely came across as more of a coming of age contemporary novel. While there might be a murder at its core, there's more of an emphasis on how people deal with tragedy and how you can overcome it. My only issue was the cha I absolutely love Evangeline's relationship with both Isaac and Lorrie, and it's easily the most character-driven book I've read all year. Characters only second to Rufus the dog, of course. I wouldn't agree with Goodreads putting "Mystery" as this book's second genre, it definitely came across as more of a coming of age contemporary novel. While there might be a murder at its core, there's more of an emphasis on how people deal with tragedy and how you can overcome it. My only issue was the chapter length. When trying to build these close emotional relationships to the characters, I thought the constant perspective-shifting only after a few pages was a little bit distracting. I might not have been on the verge of tears, but the characters themselves felt very genuine to me. I'd buy/loan it if you're really looking to delve deep into a book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary McBride

    4.5 Beautiful writing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susie | Novel Visits

    Let’s talk about the rewards of staying with a book. I’d been looking forward to reading 𝙒𝙃𝘼𝙏 𝘾𝙊𝙈𝙀𝙎 𝘼𝙁𝙏𝙀𝙍! for a very long time. When I finally started reading, I wasn’t immediately drawn in and I felt a little trepidation. It wasn’t the propulsive start I’d expected. Instead the it was a little quiet as JoAnne Tompkins began layering in her characters and their stories. My curiosity about where she was taking her story kept me going and thank goodness for that. By the end of Part 1, I was there Let’s talk about the rewards of staying with a book. I’d been looking forward to reading 𝙒𝙃𝘼𝙏 𝘾𝙊𝙈𝙀𝙎 𝘼𝙁𝙏𝙀𝙍! for a very long time. When I finally started reading, I wasn’t immediately drawn in and I felt a little trepidation. It wasn’t the propulsive start I’d expected. Instead the it was a little quiet as JoAnne Tompkins began layering in her characters and their stories. My curiosity about where she was taking her story kept me going and thank goodness for that. By the end of Part 1, I was there; by the end of Part 2, I was totally immersed; by the end of Part 3, I was completely awed!⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ This is the story of a pregnant homeless girl who finds herself in the most unlikely of places. It’s the story of two grieving parents who have both lost their teenage sons, one at the hand of the other. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ “𝘋𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘰𝘺𝘴. 𝘐𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘰𝘧 𝘑𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘋𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘦𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘺. 𝘋𝘦𝘢𝘥. 𝘉𝘰𝘺𝘴. 𝘕𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴, 𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤. 𝘈𝘴 𝘪𝘧 𝘴𝘩𝘦’𝘥 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘪𝘵. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘺. 𝘞𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘺 𝘵𝘰𝘰?”⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It’s a story of hard truths, personal growth, loyalty, forgiveness, and love in seemingly impossible situations. 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘈𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 is beautifully told, covering complex relationships through the voices of three different narrators. Being from the Puget Sound area, I loved its local setting. Some call this book a thriller, but I would not. To me it is more of a very literary mystery, but either way 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘈𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 will most definitely stay with me for a very long time. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ A huge thank you to Riverhead Books for the beautiful finished copy.⁣⁣

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication. As a preview, I did enjoy this read but am surprised by its billing as an upcoming book club pick. It is dark and more thoughtful than thought provoking IMO. TW: rape and suicide (including minors in both categories) Full review to come... Updated 4/13/21 4 stars In response to the titular statement, this novel centers on the aftermath of trauma and traged Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication. As a preview, I did enjoy this read but am surprised by its billing as an upcoming book club pick. It is dark and more thoughtful than thought provoking IMO. TW: rape and suicide (including minors in both categories) Full review to come... Updated 4/13/21 4 stars In response to the titular statement, this novel centers on the aftermath of trauma and tragedy in the lives of Isaac, whose son is murdered; Lorrie, whose son is dead; and Evangeline, whose traumas are too many and too painful to list. The atmospheric quality here is palpable; Isaac's home, the surrounding nature, and the simultaneous protection and alienation that nature provides all become more than just the backdrop. The harshness of the elements, it turns out, is no match for human nature, which over and over again comes up as pretty awful with few exceptions. While I do find this beautifully written and generally well constructed, I am still struggling with the near evaporation of some of these characters. There are loose ends and abrupt stops at times, and while the contemplative structure and general vibe work, they can be a bit frustrating. These characters grow and come to terms in their own ways, but they move slowly, painfully, and sometimes punishingly. The biggest challenges I experienced - and that I expect will be shared by other readers - were the depictions of rape and of suffering animals. Readers sensitive to one or both subjects should take note and prepare in advance. Overall, this is an intriguing study in trauma, grief, acceptance, and rebuilding -

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jordonna Grace

    This is one of those books that seeps into your consciousness, the kind where you think about the characters during the day as if they're people you really know. The story alone is terrific, mysterious and compelling, but what I appreciated even more is the way Tompkins so beautifully uncovers multiple levels of truth -- not merely about the characters and their specific circumstances, but universal truths about being human, about the desire for true connection (whether with God or family, the b This is one of those books that seeps into your consciousness, the kind where you think about the characters during the day as if they're people you really know. The story alone is terrific, mysterious and compelling, but what I appreciated even more is the way Tompkins so beautifully uncovers multiple levels of truth -- not merely about the characters and their specific circumstances, but universal truths about being human, about the desire for true connection (whether with God or family, the boy next door or a rescued pit bull). Tompkins is equally adept at writing about the dark urges of her characters as well as their impulse toward generosity, understanding, and love. I don't recall many books with a Quaker character, and the glimpses we get into Issac's world and faith are fascinating.... it made me want to learn more. And, Rufus, the dog! I'd say this novel includes some of the best dog writing ever. It's been a long time since I've read a book that is not only a deeply thoughtful literary wonder, but such a fast, fun read. One of those books you can't wait to finish. (And definitely not one of the many that lay half-finished on my nightstand!) Totally recommend.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy McFarlane

    Evangeline, a pregnant teenaged girl who has been totally abandoned and whose only wish is to have a loving mother and a family suddenly appears in a small town that is reeling over the deaths of two teenaged boys who had been lifelong friends. There is much sadness and much soul searching by those who have been left behind, and Evangeline seems to be just what they need to start to heal. But there is too much blame and too much self-blame and too much hatred for this process to be easy. Evangel Evangeline, a pregnant teenaged girl who has been totally abandoned and whose only wish is to have a loving mother and a family suddenly appears in a small town that is reeling over the deaths of two teenaged boys who had been lifelong friends. There is much sadness and much soul searching by those who have been left behind, and Evangeline seems to be just what they need to start to heal. But there is too much blame and too much self-blame and too much hatred for this process to be easy. Evangeline and her baby can bring hope for the future but only after the lies stop and forgiveness begins can this happen. I don’t think I have ever read a book so beautifully written and so heart wrenching and yet positive at the same time. It presents an interesting and introspective look at the Quaker religion while it teaches us about hope, healing and courage.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susie Dodge

    I love atmospheric books and this one had that characteristic of making the Pacific Northwest almost another character in the novel, the forests, the water, the rural areas and gritty downtown. Since it’s an area that I’ve always loved, that made me more interested in this coming-of-age thriller narrated by three different characters. A murder of a teen boy and the suicide of another ties two families who are neighbors together. A pregnant teen girl enters into the picture as somewhat of an outc I love atmospheric books and this one had that characteristic of making the Pacific Northwest almost another character in the novel, the forests, the water, the rural areas and gritty downtown. Since it’s an area that I’ve always loved, that made me more interested in this coming-of-age thriller narrated by three different characters. A murder of a teen boy and the suicide of another ties two families who are neighbors together. A pregnant teen girl enters into the picture as somewhat of an outcast. We aren’t sure at first how she ties the story together, but we find out as the novel unspools. My hat is off to JoAnne Tompkins to have pulled this off as a debut novelist. It’s extremely well put together, well written and gripping. I read it quickly because of the well drawn characters and exciting plot.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark Clemens

    "She told herself that the rest of it—the pain and fear, the mystery of everything that was approaching, everything that would transform her life—could wait." So says author JoAnne Tompkins near the end of her forthcoming book, What Comes After. The “she” is young Evangeline, who is hurtling toward one of life’s momentous experiences (“everything that was approaching”) over which she has no control. Thus, in the very next sentence, she vows to control what she can—“Right now, she was animal who "She told herself that the rest of it—the pain and fear, the mystery of everything that was approaching, everything that would transform her life—could wait." So says author JoAnne Tompkins near the end of her forthcoming book, What Comes After. The “she” is young Evangeline, who is hurtling toward one of life’s momentous experiences (“everything that was approaching”) over which she has no control. Thus, in the very next sentence, she vows to control what she can—“Right now, she was animal who needed to survive.” With survival the only thing Evangeline clings to at that point, merely existing her only hope, she then comes through the experience to triumph—just one of the many powerful moments I experienced in reading this book. Homeless, raised rough and street smart when the book begins, sixteen-year-old Evangeline comes to change the lives of the book’s other two major characters—fifty-something schoolteacher Isaac and another teenager, troubled Jonah. Isaac is trying to deal with the shock that his only son, Daniel, has been brutally murdered, and the cold fact that Daniel’s mother divorced him not too long before that. Isaac’s flailing, his search for understanding not to be found in the silence of his lifelong Quaker faith. Product of his own version of a rough upbring, Jonah is known only to his small-town high school classmates as a loner and, too, known only to himself as Daniel’s murderer. Other characters who help Evangeline, Isaac and Jonah find their way, even as they find their own, are Lorrie, who knows and does not know what her son Jonah did to Daniel; and Rufus, a mix of pit bull and saint, who is a stalwart representative of his misunderstood breed, and savant and touchstone to his owner Isaac and the boon companion Evangeline needs. At one point in the narrative comes this description about Evangeline and Jonah: "If she were a flood, a rush of water swirling higher and higher, he would have happily lain down in her, let her be the last of him." This is but one of Tompkins’ many emblematic descriptions, her prose fluid and smooth even as it alarms, even as it shows what we mean to each other. Pain and fear, mystery and transformation—these words sum up feelings that occur not once, but repeatedly throughout the book as Evangeline, Isaac and Jonah move inexorably toward their denouement. What Comes After is exquisitely felt, marvelously realized, pulling you where you sometimes don’t want to go and leaving you other places you never thought you’d be. Not a thriller but thrilling, not religious but reverent, What Comes After is poignant always in what it reveals about these wonderful characters and their hearts, and yours. We are all rivers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Doherty

    Oh I love this story, its characters, the best good boy ever! It's hard to believe it's her debut - but after reading about Tompkins' history, it makes far more sense how all the gritty, authentic experiences feel so real and vetted. From a delightfully current nod to the Quaker faith, the page-turning mystery, highlighting how such devastating life experiences reflect in our mental health - to the deep desire to feel accepted / validated throughout this amazing and immersive story. I'd give mor Oh I love this story, its characters, the best good boy ever! It's hard to believe it's her debut - but after reading about Tompkins' history, it makes far more sense how all the gritty, authentic experiences feel so real and vetted. From a delightfully current nod to the Quaker faith, the page-turning mystery, highlighting how such devastating life experiences reflect in our mental health - to the deep desire to feel accepted / validated throughout this amazing and immersive story. I'd give more stars if able... Galley borrowed from the publisher.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ray Palen

    2021 has been quite a year for debut novels and now we can add this excellent release from author Joanne Tompkins entitled WHAT COMES AFTER to that growing list. When Daniel Balch failed to make it home one afternoon following football practice his father Isaac knew something terrible had happened. Isaac phoned his ex-wife Katherine who had not heard from their son either. Living in a small town like Port Furlong, Washington, means everyone knows each other so the entire town is out in search of 2021 has been quite a year for debut novels and now we can add this excellent release from author Joanne Tompkins entitled WHAT COMES AFTER to that growing list. When Daniel Balch failed to make it home one afternoon following football practice his father Isaac knew something terrible had happened. Isaac phoned his ex-wife Katherine who had not heard from their son either. Living in a small town like Port Furlong, Washington, means everyone knows each other so the entire town is out in search of Daniel Balch. The Balch family are Quakers, making them part of an even tighter, small sect and that group is also shoulder-to-shoulder with the other searchers. Daniel’s mutilated body is found in the wounds, confirming the worst fears of the Balch family and all the town residents. What makes Daniel’s murder that much more shocking is the fact that just days after the discovery of his body his best friend and next-door neighbor who he grew up with, Jonah, commits suicide. Jonah’s suicide note does not indicate that he took his life out of grief over his friend’s death but over the fact that he confessed to the brutal murder of his best friend. We will find out shortly why Jonah did what he did. For now, Isaac Balch and the rest of the town are in a period of deep mourning --- a period that is technically ‘what comes after’ the murder/suicide that has rocked the residents of the surrounding area. Joanne Tompkins not only cleverly switches narrators throughout the novel but also jumps occasionally to the mind of Jonah in chapters that are written from his perspective on the day of his death. Each successive Jonah flashback provides a bit more of the puzzle surrounding his relationship not only with Daniel but also the girl behind the schism that cost the two friends their lives --- the homeless young Evangeline ‘Red’ McKensey. We also get reflections of Evangeline’s story bit by bit which not only lends support to the last thoughts of Jonah but also keeps the suspense building. WHAT COMES AFTER is a murder mystery that reads like great literary fiction and this is primarily due to the complex, well-written characters and their inter-personal relationships throughout the tale. Evangeline is discovered sleeping outdoors by Isaac Balch’s home when he lets her in to have some food, get warm, and shower up. She also gets to meet the family dog, Rufus, who is love-starved since the loss of his best friend, Daniel. Evangeline did not show up there by accident, a fact that Isaac will not learn until much later in the novel. She knew very well that this was the home of Daniel Balch and that Jonah and his family lived directly behind them. We also learn that both boys had had sexual relations with Evangeline --- Jonah via mutual consent and attraction and Daniel in a violent episode that could have been construed as rape. What complicates matters is that Evangeline, now living in the spare bedroom at Isaac’s home, is pregnant and she is initially unsure as to whether the child is Jonah’s or Daniel’s. As she begins to share more and more with Isaac, as well as Jonah’s mother Lorrie, Isaac and Lorrie begin to suspect that it might be either of their grandchildren being carried by the teen-aged Evangeline and they do all they can to make her comfortable. Isaac also hears from other local eyewitnesses that reported seeing Evangeline getting in and out of Daniel’s vehicle when he and Jonah were with her months earlier. This novel continues to provide complications once we learn the role Evangeline may have played in Daniel’s murder. Additionally, a trip to her Doctor indicates that the due date for her child may have been wrong, putting things weeks earlier than originally expected. This fact means that the father could not have been Daniel or Jonah. We now have to change focus to the period where ‘Red’ was briefly operating as a prostitute and one of her potential ‘Johns’ may have been Isaac’s best friend, Peter, also the Principal at the town High School. Regardless of how things end up playing out, the experience of reading WHAT COMES AFTER is a such a pleasure you forget you are reading what is essentially a murder mystery. This means to me that Joanne Tompkins is a writer to watch! Reviewed by Ray Palen for Criminal Element

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Forbes

    My recent reading rut was due to my ADD being unbearable throughout most of April. Several conversations with my therapist helped to reach the conclusion that my brain just needed a break - it wanted to do nothing when I came home from work, so I gave in and let it happen. That being said, I haven't found a story that my mind felt worth investing time in in weeks. What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins was finally able to hold my attention. I was up until 2am Sunday night (!) and took a long Monday My recent reading rut was due to my ADD being unbearable throughout most of April. Several conversations with my therapist helped to reach the conclusion that my brain just needed a break - it wanted to do nothing when I came home from work, so I gave in and let it happen. That being said, I haven't found a story that my mind felt worth investing time in in weeks. What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins was finally able to hold my attention. I was up until 2am Sunday night (!) and took a long Monday lunch to finish. I can't recall caring about so many characters in a long, long time. Damn. Tompkins reveals just enough about each character to perfectly keep the novel's pace, providing glimpses of their past actions (or inactions) at exactly the right time, all while allowing them to develop entirely new outlooks and appreciations as the present-day plotline progresses. The mystery at the center of the story pulls the reader in, but the characters' relationships to one another was what hooked me. There is beautiful prose about love and its various dangers and complexities of such intensity, sometimes exemplified best to the characters in a certain dog's unconditional loyalty. The most moving passages often involved the character who most valued silence. The internal spiritual conflicts in this book are wonderfully universal and realistic despite the character's specific religious practices, a detail by Tompkins that enchances the novel's beauty and perspectives on forgiveness. I underlined so many perfect sentances toward the end, but I'll end this post with the one that floored me: “I ignored the evidence before me and held him in the Light, pictured him glowing with the Divine that still existed in him. And he changed over those minutes, a falling away of the layers of not-God, not-love, of man-made cover, of an ego's false protections. Then he was weeping. Silently shaking as tears spilled onto his cheeks. We sat until he was still. We sat awhile longer. I stood and waited a few minutes more. Then I opened my arms. He hesitated but came to me, and I held the Divine that he still contained, and I held the man with all his lesions, and I held myself for being there, reaching out, even as the not-God in me roared with an ache to inflict grievous harm on this man, to make him feel all he had inflicted on others. When I had given everything I could, I pulled away. I left him before the not-love in me reared up, before it suffocated that of the Divine.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Drea

    A beautifully-layered novel told in three character voices, What Comes Next will stay with me for a long time. Subjects include identity and love and family and how resilience and hope and forgiveness of others and yourself is powerful and daring. I found the pacing to be perfect and the characters complex and relatable. I was fascinated by the Quaker beliefs and want to learn more. More thoughts later. This book is lovely and well-worth your attention. Heartfelt thanks to Riverhead Books and Net A beautifully-layered novel told in three character voices, What Comes Next will stay with me for a long time. Subjects include identity and love and family and how resilience and hope and forgiveness of others and yourself is powerful and daring. I found the pacing to be perfect and the characters complex and relatable. I was fascinated by the Quaker beliefs and want to learn more. More thoughts later. This book is lovely and well-worth your attention. Heartfelt thanks to Riverhead Books and NetGalley for a copy of this magnificent book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelli Trusedell

    I was a little nervous about this book, with its dark backstory and intense first chapter preview on BOTM, but I ended up really loving it! I loved the mystery and unraveling of the story, the change of perspectives every chapter, Rufus the dog, and the growth and resilience of the characters. I had my first-ever ugly cry in a coffee shop while reading. Can’t believe this was the author’s debut book! Recommend!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Jarvis

    How is this her first book. Once again I’m a little nervous about writing a review of a book that I really enjoyed, in fear that someone else will take my recommendation, put high expectations on something, only to find out their difference of opinion and that they did not feel The same way about the book that I did. But here I go anyways, what comes after is right up there with one of my top five this year. I’m not gonna lie the flow of the book is slow going. As the author alternates between po How is this her first book. Once again I’m a little nervous about writing a review of a book that I really enjoyed, in fear that someone else will take my recommendation, put high expectations on something, only to find out their difference of opinion and that they did not feel The same way about the book that I did. But here I go anyways, what comes after is right up there with one of my top five this year. I’m not gonna lie the flow of the book is slow going. As the author alternates between points of view, the storyline is slow to unfold. However this book is more than just a story. The writing penned across the pages has a poetic element to it as it describes the desire to feel loved, wanted, appreciated, and needed. I love that this was a local Pacific Northwest author, and seriously where has this women been hiding???? As stated in one of my previous post last weeks, again I say I may end up stocking Port Townsend, in hopes that I bump into them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Kashinsky

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I felt like this started out with such an interesting plot and the mystery behind the murder is a great one. But at the end of the day I felt like this was a Quaker allegory and there truly was not much of a resolution in the story line, nor a climax. It just ended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian Simpson

    I really enjoyed this story. Emotionally, I was all over the place. I found myself dying to get to the end, while not wanting it to end, all at the same time. It really is a beautiful story of healing and recovery after tragedy. Can’t wait for her next novel !

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I wanted to like this one but it just dragged for me. DNF at 40%. It became a chore to pick up the book

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mackenzie Cool

    *Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group - Riverhead for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.* While I was initially worried that I might find this novel to be over tragedy-ed (teen pregnancy, abandonment, murder, multiple suicides) I was immediately captivated by the elegant prose and rich characters. Tompkins' characters have flaws and triumphs that are both believable and heart wrenching, and I found myself experiencing the full range of emotions alongside them, from heartache and shame *Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group - Riverhead for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.* While I was initially worried that I might find this novel to be over tragedy-ed (teen pregnancy, abandonment, murder, multiple suicides) I was immediately captivated by the elegant prose and rich characters. Tompkins' characters have flaws and triumphs that are both believable and heart wrenching, and I found myself experiencing the full range of emotions alongside them, from heartache and shame to redemption and love. While this is a more character driven novel, the plot moves along steadily enough to keep you interested without being too jaunty as to detract from the slow boil of tension. The backdrop of Washington nature and the unfinished house leant itself to an eerie undertone, building both the physical and emotional tension. The ending was a poignant cocktail of grief and hope and resiliency, and left me with the notion that we can find joy in life even after the worst of traumas.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Unraveling the aftermath of a violent encounter and the families it tears apart, What Comes After is a memorable debut from JoAnne Tompkins. Set in small town Washington, a community is devastated by the deaths of two boys, childhood friends whose violent end is the source of confusion to their families. When a mysterious teenage girl appears soon after and embeds herself in the community, it becomes clear that the boys were not the only ones with secrets they hid. The story touches many contemp Unraveling the aftermath of a violent encounter and the families it tears apart, What Comes After is a memorable debut from JoAnne Tompkins. Set in small town Washington, a community is devastated by the deaths of two boys, childhood friends whose violent end is the source of confusion to their families. When a mysterious teenage girl appears soon after and embeds herself in the community, it becomes clear that the boys were not the only ones with secrets they hid. The story touches many contemporary tropes of family dramas, but does so appropriately. The character of Isaac was my favorite - a gentle, quiet Quaker father who seems to have lost everything but his aging, droopy dog, he walks through the tragedy of his son's death with a unique set of supporting characters, and arrives on the other side a fully-developed and deeply moving figure. I found Evangeline and Lorrie to be lacking the same deep layers, but appreciated them nonetheless. Great for fans of "Long Bright River" or Jodi Picoult's small town-set family dramas, What Comes After gets four stars from me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    KarenK

    I received this from Netgalley.com. "What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. " An okay read. The 'mystery' aspect is solved early on in the story and the balance of the book is dealing with the aftermath of it and Evangeline’s teen-age pregnancy. 3.25☆ I received this from Netgalley.com. "What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. " An okay read. The 'mystery' aspect is solved early on in the story and the balance of the book is dealing with the aftermath of it and Evangeline’s teen-age pregnancy. 3.25☆

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    WHAT COMES AFTER is a poignant and suspenseful debut novel about the tensions of love, anger, courage, forgiveness and everything in between. Set in a coastal Washington town rocked by a shocking tragedy, JoAnne Tompkins’ first book is an unforgettable story of life after loss. One week into his senior year of high school, Daniel Balch does not come home after football practice. He is strikingly handsome, athletic and well-liked, and is treated as a sort of hero in his small town, so his father, WHAT COMES AFTER is a poignant and suspenseful debut novel about the tensions of love, anger, courage, forgiveness and everything in between. Set in a coastal Washington town rocked by a shocking tragedy, JoAnne Tompkins’ first book is an unforgettable story of life after loss. One week into his senior year of high school, Daniel Balch does not come home after football practice. He is strikingly handsome, athletic and well-liked, and is treated as a sort of hero in his small town, so his father, Isaac, is not too concerned at first. But when he still has not shown up by morning, a search begins. On the eighth day of Daniel’s disappearance, his childhood best friend, Jonah, dies by suicide, leaving behind a note not only saying goodbye, but confessing to Daniel’s murder and leading the police to his violently stabbed body. Jonah gives no reason for the attack, but locals --- and Isaac --- immediately start to weigh the boys’ differences: Daniel was attractive and popular, while Jonah was jumpy and awkward. It is proposed that a girl might have been involved, but even that explanation lacks evidence. However, there is a young lady who knows more about the boys than even their closest friends and relatives. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline McKensey’s luck has run dry. She has been abandoned by her Jesus-obsessed mother for a life of drug addiction and wretched men, and she is just a few days away from being evicted from her home. She is also pregnant. Like everyone in Port Furlong, she has been watching and listening for more news about the murder-suicide that ripped their town in half. But unlike her fellow citizens and their half-baked theories, she spent time with both boys in their last days, and she saw sides of them that others didn’t. Since the discovery of Daniel’s body, she has become drawn to Isaac, who, even in the most emotional press conferences, seems to possess an otherworldly stillness. It is this surety, this stoicism, that leads her to trek into town to find Daniel’s home and wait for something, though she’s not sure what that is. When Isaac discovers a dirty, disheveled, pregnant teenager on his property, he knows that he must act with charity and kindness. He welcomes her into his home and is shocked by the filth under her fingernails and the bloody scratches on her hands. He gives her a bed for the night and some clean clothes left over from his ex-wife. In an even greater act of kindness, he accepts her flimsy story about a deceased mother, a drug-addicted aunt and a random bus trip to Port Furlong. Although Evangeline does not mention her connection to Daniel, she and Isaac strike up a quiet, careful companionship, all while she prepares for motherhood and he attempts to face his grief and anger head-on. A devout Quaker who has practiced stoicism for practically his entire life, Isaac is drawn to protect Evangeline, who he senses has never known true love or kindness. But he is also intrigued by her potential connection to Daniel, which stirs curiosity, rage and profound sadness in him all at once. Living next door to Isaac and Evangeline is Lorrie, Jonah’s mother. While Isaac and his wife, and Lorrie and her husband, were once all friends --- their sons growing up and playing alongside one another --- they were pushed apart by divorce, death and the boys’ friendship dissolving. But now the connection between their sons is unavoidable. Isaac is desperate to forgive Lorrie for Jonah's hand in Daniel’s death, but he finds himself behaving coldly, even cruelly, to her as she starts to befriend Evangeline and help her navigate her pregnancy. When it becomes clear that Evangeline knew Daniel and Jonah, and that she might even be carrying one of their babies, Evangeline, Isaac and Lorrie are thrust into a painful, revealing communion that forces them to confront their own relationships with the boys, themselves and one another. With a murder mystery that is more murder than mystery at its heart, WHAT COMES AFTER is a propulsive read that explores the after-effects of tragedy. There is much to be said for Tompkins’ weaving of anger and grief, love and forgiveness, but it is Evangeline and Isaac who make the novel unforgettable. Isaac is a unique character in that he is profoundly self-aware: he knows how to forgive Lorrie, how to approach Evangeline, and even how to be a friend to his struggling coworker. And yet, like any human, he has tremendous blind spots, and it is in these moments where Tompkins truly shines. Because Isaac is so introspective and stoic, his rage, jealousy and envy are all the more shocking and impactful in their emotional tension. His relationship with Lorrie, in particular, is written more tautly and deeply than almost any other friendship, romance or rivalry I have ever read. Tompkins is incredibly skilled at taking huge, universal themes and packing them into tight, intimate scenes, never once losing the strength or gut punch of the emotions behind them. In Evangeline, too, Tompkins does something remarkable by taking a practically feral, destitute girl and showing readers how painful it can be to accept something good when all you’ve known is bad. Evangeline is a well-written teen, but even more than that, she is a beautifully written victim, who has learned to navigate the ins and outs of abuse, poverty and hopelessness like a sadness cartographer. So fine-tuned is her grasp of her landscape that she perceives even the smallest kindness to be a trap. Tompkins is sharp in her characterization of Evangeline, but she is also respectful, never rushing the character toward a breakthrough and pacing out every downslide so that it becomes a learning moment. As utterly moving and poignant as the book is, I found some of Tompkins' choices a bit jarring. While Isaac’s chapters are written in first-person, Evangeline’s are in third, and the transition between the two could be distracting. There were also some subplots, like the plight of Isaac’s coworker, that felt extraneous to the main storyline. With so much potential and tension in the relationships between Isaac, Evangeline and Lorrie, anything that took the spotlight away from them felt vestigial. Perfect for readers of THE SECRET WISDOM OF THE EARTH, HOUSE ON FIRE and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, WHAT COMES AFTER is an impressive debut by an author who is clearly here to stay. Reviewed by Rebecca Munro

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan Pearlstein

    Complete review at Pittsburgh Post Gazette https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/books... When there is a murder/suicide on page two, a novel can generally be counted on to deliver non-stop action and whodunit mystery through its final paragraphs. But JoAnne Tompkins’ debut novel, What Comes After, is not that type of book. In this introspective story, it is not the police who explore what happened and why. It is the victims and their families who struggle to discover the causes and effects of this trag Complete review at Pittsburgh Post Gazette https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/books... When there is a murder/suicide on page two, a novel can generally be counted on to deliver non-stop action and whodunit mystery through its final paragraphs. But JoAnne Tompkins’ debut novel, What Comes After, is not that type of book. In this introspective story, it is not the police who explore what happened and why. It is the victims and their families who struggle to discover the causes and effects of this tragedy. They are the ones who are left to analyze what caused, and to cope with what comes after the shocking loss of loved ones. Childhood friends Daniel and Jonah, now high-school seniors in the sleepy coastal town of Port Furlough, Washington, become entangled with a homeless girl and the results are catastrophic. After their deaths, Jonah’s mom, Daniel’s dad, and the girl herself embark on harrowing interior journeys, trying to process their love, responsibility, guilt, shame, sorrow, helplessness and existential despair over the death of the boys. Evangeline, the sixteen-year-old child of a broken home, has been abandoned by her mother and is left alone, pregnant and penniless. She knowingly wanders towards Daniel’s house and is taken in by his devastated father, Isaac, who is initially unaware of any connection between his son and this filthy, hungry girl. Eventually, as he learns the truth of Evangeline’s relationship with the two dead boys, they confront their inner separate, yet related turmoil, and strive to create a new human bond between them. What Comes After is a novel about how people think and feel. While various locations are well-described, none of them really matter. Whether the interactions between the characters occur on a moon-lit sailboat, at an austere Quaker meeting hall, or in a noisy high school cafeteria, the setting is often irrelevant. The action takes place inside the heads and hearts of the narrative characters and the people with whom they interact. The narration technique itself is unique. The author provides a first-person point of view from Isaac, the rigid, compartmentalized, divorced father of Daniel. Other chapters are told in third person, often through the thoughts and feeling of manipulative, cunning Evangeline, who is certain she was the catalyst for the violence. And a third point of view is also on display: several chapters are narrated by one of the dead boys, Jonah, who alone has first-hand knowledge of what actually transpired between him and Daniel. Ms. Tompkins is clearly a student of human nature. She captures tiny gestures and nuances of behavior that are telling, yet commonly pass unnoticed. She has Evangeline describe one of her seducers: “Not only was the guy movie-star handsome, he could act, too. At least he’d mastered a way of looking at a girl as if utterly indifferent yet obsessed all the same.” Sometimes reading more like psychological or philosophical musings on how people perceive themselves rather than like an actual novel, Ms. Tompkins delves into the interior lives of her characters. What Comes After exposes the lies they tell themselves and the lies they tell the people they know, just so they can make it through a day, just so they can posit a world they can bear to live in. Ms. Tompkins also unflinchingly tackles the topic of evil. Is it an internal or external force and are all humans susceptible? Maybe a little evil is a positive thing, because it allows us to test ourselves and prove our goodness. What Comes After rejects original sin: people are not born inherently evil; evil is a force that possesses us. Evangeline with her lies, Isaac with his temper, Daniel with his bullying, Jonah with his rage… everyone carries the struggle within them. Although bleak, this novel of individual reflection and anguish ultimately resurrects the prospect of hope. Evil is not innate, and the struggle between evil and good, hate and love, resides eternally within each of us. We choose, each minute of each day, and past choices do not dictate future outcomes. What comes after is up to each one of us, and we have the capacity to choose love, mercy and understanding. Whether we do or not, well, that’s up to us.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Bertsche

    “Doesn’t evil and its violence stalk us all, forever seeking points of entry?” (p.126) What Comes After was a stunning debut novel, that far and above exceeded my expectations from the front foot and a quick peruse of reviews here. Tompkins tackles some ugly topics - rape, teen pregnancy, depression, violence, grief and suicide- all in a manner of grace and understanding. While all of these topics are touched on, the story doesn’t come off as overtly gory. It feels more like an exploration of the “Doesn’t evil and its violence stalk us all, forever seeking points of entry?” (p.126) What Comes After was a stunning debut novel, that far and above exceeded my expectations from the front foot and a quick peruse of reviews here. Tompkins tackles some ugly topics - rape, teen pregnancy, depression, violence, grief and suicide- all in a manner of grace and understanding. While all of these topics are touched on, the story doesn’t come off as overtly gory. It feels more like an exploration of the deeply complicated relationships that the characters hold with their selves and their pasts. I particularly enjoyed how she wove the Quaker faith into the core fabric of Issac’s character, and how she presented some of the teachings through his own personal struggles to comprehend the loss of his son. “We name our villains and then treat them in such a way that they prove us prophets.” (p.66) The story here kicks off with a murder suicide of two teen boys, and then fast follows with a teen pregnancy, but never manages to feel too heavy. It read to me as a whodunnit, or maybe a whydunnit; where the narrative untangles the tragic series of events that set the stage for three broken souls to try and put their pieces back together. Evangelines arrives 16 and pregnant, uncertain of the father, on the doorstep of Issacs home. Issac, who is father grieving the murder of his son Daniel, retreats into silence and reflection as his life was thrown into upheaval following the violent death (as well as an untimely divorce). Next door, Lorrie and her daughter Nells mourn years of trauma compounded by the suicide of son/brother Jonah— Daniel’s once best friend and killer. Told through the voices of Issac and Jonah, the book also flips to a third person narrative that follows Evangeline. I actually didn’t consciously notice the different narrative styles until about a third of the way in (it’s something that has bugged me in other books), but thought that it added a subtle weight to how Evangeline started as an outsider to these characters. Thompkins prose was SO beautiful, almost poetic at times, but felt true and genuine to each character. Even though Issac was a middle aged divorced man, I found myself really identifying with a lot of his struggles to be the person he imagines himself to be, instead of someone held captive by his impulses and emotions. I found myself earmarking so many pages for some amazing one liners that capture the raw violence of intense emotionality that comes with self reflection, and striving to be a better version of yourself. “It feels like love, like truth, which are just different ways of saying the same thing.” (p.415) As the pieces of the “who” and “why” start to fall into place, the pull to finish this story flipped from solving a mystery to following the characters growth and relationships. By the last page I was so investing in wanting a happy ending for these characters. I won’t give anything away about where things land, but I loved that the ending provided a sense of peace about the world, after 300+ pages circling themes of violence. 5/5 would recommend, and can’t wait to read more from this author!

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