Cover Image: What Comes After

What Comes After

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Member Reviews

I fell in love with these characters and didn't want the story to end!  I really enjoyed the writing style on this one too.
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This had a great storyline but i just felt out of touch with the characters that it took away from my reading experience. 
Not a bad book just didnt work for me.
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This book is right in my "reading wheel" and it really grabbed me in the beginning with a murder/suicide. However, I had a difficult time staying focused on the story because it just dragged on. Many readers who have patience will enjoy this book, but sorry, I didn't.
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This book takes you on a journey through the grief and anger that comes after loss and then to the hope and forgiveness that follows. What Comes After is a character-driven novel with several well-written characters that are easy to understand and empathize with. I did find parts of the story over-done and struggled to keep reading halfway through. It did pick up again by the end, but I'm not totally sure I am satisfied with the ending.
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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.” Later, evicted from her low-rent home, lurking in the woods with only a candy bar in her pocket, Evangeline longs for the days “when she luxuriated in the daily petty grievances a teenage girl could harbor against her mother.”  

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. 

The characters in this book willfully fabricate reality, wrap themselves in gauzy curtains, in an attempt to avoid the unpleasantness of their existence. The author’s implication is clear:  these characters are us; we are them; we are all living in self-created fog. Evangeline doesn’t even always bother to deceive herself. “If a few so-called facts needed a tweak here or there to help those people understand – or to distract them from investigating her prior life – she’d be happy to supply them.” 

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.


Susan Pearlstein is an Allegheny County attorney who looks forward to once again volunteering at the Carnegie Free Library of Swissvale
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"What Comes After" is an interesting novel, but it just didn't live up to my expectations. I'm very picky when it comes to my reading tastes, so I think the majority of avid readers will enjoy this book. The main problem I have with this genre are the plot and outcome are always very predictable. I wasn't blown away by the ending, I was pretty much anticipating it, and not in a good way. I still think it's worth a read. The cover art is stunning. 

Thank you, Netgalley and Riverhead for the digital ARC.
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One teenager kills his best friend in a fit of rage, then later kills himself. Left behind are two grieving single parents, and a homeless teenage girl who knew both boys. When the girl ends up pregnant, she shows up at the home of one of the dead boys, and the boy's father welcomes her in. This book is a tangled weave of human relationships where the focus is on uncertainty, healing, forgiveness, and becoming whole. It's a balm for the soul!
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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 forgiveness of others and yourself. 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.
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What a beautiful, heartbreaking story. If you loved "Where the Crawdads Sing", I think you'll really enjoy this one! This is more than just a typical "coming-of-age" story and not quite a mystery novel. I think that's what I like best about it. The writing is breathtaking, especially for a debut author! This is one of those books that will stick with you for a long time. Highly recommended!
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This book blew me out of the water. It was incredibly dark, but somehow not depressing. It looked at relationships, religion and feminism, all wrapped up in a little bit of a mystery. I would recommend this to people who like literary fiction and thrillers.
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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 cannot wait to read this author's next book! Thanks to Netgalley and Riverhead Books for the 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
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Two teenage boys. Both dead but only one to blame. They had been best friends since they were 3 years old, neighbors, even though the two couldn't be more different. How did this happen?

Isaac, a Quaker, is reeling from his son Daniels death. Divorced from his wife he's left with his dog Rufus as his only company.

Just across the way is Lorrie a widow. She too lost her son, Jonah. He killed himself after admitting to killing Daniel.

Then there is Evangeline. She is a pregnant 16 year old girl who Isaac finds sleeping in the field outside of his house. He takes her in and from here we read a story about grief and loss and love and hope.

My goodness this book made me emotional on many occasions. I grew to love and care about all of the characters. Especially Rufus, what an amazing dog! I'll admit this book is not an easy read. It's going to grab you by the heart and kick you in the stomach all at the same time. An amazing book, truly, especially seeing that this is a debut. My only very small complaint would be that it ended rather abruptly and I wanted more closure for our characters. I can't speak for everyone but I want to believe they all got the happy ending they deserve. If you recently read We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker and enjoyed it then this is one that you should definitely pick up. Highly recommend!

Thank you to NetGalley and Riverhead books for my copy.
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“The greatest mysteries lie hidden in what we believe we already know”

Here is an emotional read centered on lost souls, human relationships, and the devastating grip of grief.  Joanne Thompkins’ debut novel reveals the human aftermath following a teen murder and suicide in a small town.   If that weren’t enough, add a mysterious pregnant teen to the community.   The story is a mystery, but focused on the tragic characters and the revealing of their complex inner demons and motivations.

The book is told in 3 voices:
Evangeline, the pregnant teen, is forced to grow up quick.  She has a tough exterior, doesn’t trust people and lacks self worth stemming from a life of abandonment.  Her pregnancy motivates her to find a way out.

Isaac is the stoic dad of the murdered teen, in denial about the people he loves and in denial about himself.  He is forced to look into his soul and face his truth and his feelings about his friends, family, faith, and self.

Jonah is the boy who commits suicide.  His perspective is so sensitive, raw and vulnerable.  His is the most painful to read.  In his head, he see his brokenness.  He is driven by fear and love and the need to keep others safe from the monster in his head.

These characters as well as many others (including a wonderfully written dog Rufus) are complex.  The author touches on themes of abandonment, belonging, betrayal, abuse, acceptance, trust, self worth, security, spirituality, purpose, and choosing life.  The book also offered interesting insight into the Quaker faith.  After reading it, I needed to take a few days to process my range of emotion.  Be ready, this book with take you there.

“Some hearts are stronger than others.  I think every heart knows when it’s had enough. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!
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This is one astoundingly phenomenal debut - beautifully written, each character's story a standout that could very well stand alone, yet they are so intricately woven together that's hard to imagine one without the other. It's also the kind of book that hurts (heartbreaking doesn't begin to describe it) but simultaneously so captures the heart that it's impossible to put down. Evangleline is worth the price of admission alone. I will be putting this one in many a hand. One of my favorite reads of the year so far. Word of caution: Certain subjects may be painful triggers for some, so best to read the description first.
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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.
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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!⁣⁣
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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. ⁣⁣
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“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?”⁣⁣
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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. ⁣⁣
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A huge thank you to @riverheadbooks for this beautiful finished copy.⁣⁣
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What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins begins with two missing boys in the Pacific Northwest. The boys, friends and neighbors, are found dead, one murdered by the other. Their families struggle with grief and confusion and anger, until 16-year-old Evangeline mysteriously appears in town. Pregnant and alone, Evangeline connects the two families and starts them on a path of healing and forgiveness. 

Told in alternating perspectives (including a “death diary” of one of the boys), the mystery of what happened to Evangeline and the boys slowly unfolds. What Comes After is not a thriller; instead, it’s a novel about loss and grief, about forgiveness and acceptance, and about what family truly means.
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The story could tear up someone stoic! This was a very heartfelt story about family, love, forgiveness, and trust. Family issues like this can really be too delicate as someone who also knows the pain can relive the time where that pain originated. But the possibility of a future with all smiles is not impossible. A future where you can use your past to know and do better this time.
The community is torn by the news that two teenage boys had died. One is named Daniel, a son to Isaac Balch who just had a divorce and now also suffering from the loss of his son. The other one was named Jonah and he is the second son of Lorrie. She had lost her first son when it was still a baby and now lost her second son from committing suicide. Isaac and Lorie is both a single parent, they live not too far from each other, and the last thing that they had in common was they are both numb and lost for losing their love ones. Along came a girl at Isaac`s doorstep, Evangeline McKensey, a sixteen years old girl, homeless, and pregnant. Isaac eventually needs the help of Lorrie for he can not handle this on his own. Thus the start of the relationship of those three that they did not see coming. All three had a past that is somewhat connected and a possibility that they can also share the future with each other.
Life is the usual one that taught and show us things but this time it was a book. a book that shows us life is fair for it is unfair to all of us in different ways. But also taught us to be tough for there is always a brighter tomorrow.
What can I only say is “Read it!!” you won`t regret picking this book up. it might open some old wounds but it will also heal them for you to use. What an amazing creation amidst this pandemic the world is suffering from.
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#whatcomesafter #joannetompkins #netgalley #penguingroup well. We are thrust in to the lives of Daniel. Jonah. And. Red. The dynamic of this book is a strange one. Daniels parents are recently divorced. His #Quaker father believes in silence to talk to the divine. No abs mother a victim of domestic abuse and a father who completed suicide in front of his family. Then there’s the girl they call Red. Whose mother has abandoned her. Definitely an interesting thought provoking read. #bookstagram #readersofinstagram #booklover #readmorebooks #netgalleyreview
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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.
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