Cover Image: What Comes After

What Comes After

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Here is my one-minute spoiler-free video review:

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:

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.
Was this review helpful?
'What Comes After' is a story of loss, grief and healing. Two neighbors in a small town are dealing with the death of their sons in a murder suicide and trying to understand why it happened. They've been left no clues until a young, pregnant, girl appears, in need of a home.
This book was an interesting study in human characters and dark emotions. Grief is an ugly process and all the characters need to face up to their own flaws before they can move on.
Dog lovers will also enjoy the depiction of the family pet!
Was this review helpful?
This book was much quieter than I expected. I was looking forward to a fast paced mystery/thriller and was surprised by this slower book with more character development. I enjoyed the story but was thrown off a little by the frequent changes in timeline and point of view. Overall I enjoyed this book once I got over my initial misconceptions.
Was this review helpful?
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 -
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars
This novel was hauntingly beautiful and was so much more than the mystery thriller I was expecting. I was hooked after one short chapter. 
It was deep and emotional, and highly hopeful. 
I felt for each character, and wanted the best for all of them. 
It’s about moving forward after loss, redemption, acceptance, and what connects us. 
It was surprisingly very moving, and I enjoyed every last drop.
Was this review helpful?
Lots of elements of a great mystery, including suspense and some twists. Engaging. Recommended.

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!
Was this review helpful?
An emotional read about loss and grief. For me, it felt like a bit much - like every difficult topic possible was thrown in. But, I did enjoy learning more about the Quaker faith. This book will definitely pull at your heart strings and make you think. There are a lot of deep topics in this book. It wasn't an easy read but it was a good one! 

Thank you NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Riverhead for the digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Two boys died in shocking circumstances, and a pregnant girl emerges, and ends up living in the home of one of the boys after befriending his father.  This book fell pretty flat for me all around.  There wasn't much mystery or intrigue pushing the storyline forward.   I also didn't feel any strong connections to the characters, especially where there was a lot of opportunity for those emotions to be more pronounced and create stronger connections with the reader.
Was this review helpful?
I did not care for this novel. I thought it would be more thrilling but I found it super boring. I didn’t even care to find out how Daniel died, who was the father of Evangeline’s baby etc. Just not my cup of tea.
Was this review helpful?
Joanne Tompkins’s work of contemporary fiction What Comes After is a beautiful novel about everything from suffering, pain, guilt, loss, the universal evil within, cycles and inheritance of trauma to the unconditional love parents have for their children and the intricacies of family to the importance and difficulty of forgiveness. 

What Comes Next focuses on what happens when a mysterious, pregnant teenager enters a man’s life who is mourning the murder of his son.  The mysteries surrounding the murder of Daniel and the paternity of Evangeline’s child are slowly uncovered as the novel moves forward.  

I always love a novel that depicts mourning and forgiveness in realistic ways, and Tompkins accomplished this here.  At some points, I do think What Comes Next was overwritten, and some discussions fell a bit flat, but overall I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves both a good mystery and tender, real moments between families, neighbors, and strangers.
Was this review helpful?
Two teen boys deaths leave a small town looking for answers. Bereaved parents searching for answers and a girl who needs healing all come in to play. Its fast paced and chapters are told in alternating voices. A new writer to follow. 
Thank you NetGalley & JoAnne Tompkins for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Keep an entire box of Kleenex at hand when you sit down to read What Comes After.  It is a beautifully written story that will surely bring most readers to tears.

Very simply, this novel is about two dead teenage boys, a homeless and pregnant girl, one of the boy's father, the other boy's mother, and a loving dog.  The author does an absolutely masterful job of bringing the main characters to life.  The novel is told in the first person by Isaac, who we first get to know at his son's funeral.  I loved Isaac's devotion to his Quaker roots and his interactions with his Quaker friends.  The chapters about Isaac are alternated with chapters about Emma, a teen who has been deserted by her mother and, subsequently, taken in by Isaac.  My heart broke with her as she struggled with her journey to take care of herself and her unborn child and then as she learned to let others into her life.  The third POV is that of Jonah, who is writing on the day of his death.  Again, as a reader, Ms. Tompkins took me into Jonah's very soul.

Near the end of the novel, Isaac's dog Rufus, who is so integral to the story, comes to the end of his life, and honestly, I had to skim the chapters about Rufus as they were just too emotional, albeit beautifully written.  (I am adding this fact because I know it will be a trigger for some readers, so this is a heads' up.)

This is such a powerful book, it's hard to review.  My sincere thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.  This isn't the kind of novel I would normally pick up, but I'm so glad I did.  Five bright stars for What Comes After.  It is scheduled for publication on April 13, 2021.
Was this review helpful?
This book was heartbreaking, and so beautifully written. I did not know what to expect going into it, and I found the story compelling and a wonderful examination of the after-effects of individual actions.

Thank you to PENGUIN GROUP Riverhead and NetGalley for the chance to read this book!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley, Riverhead Books, and JoAnne Tompkins for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The small Washington town of Port Furlong is shaken by the deaths of two teenage boys. Isaac Balch lives alone with his dog. He is grieving both the death of his son, Daniel, and the departure of his wife. His next door neighbor, Lorrie, is grieving her son Jonah's death. Though each of them are experiencing similar circumstances, they remain separated from one another and have difficulty finding common ground. Shortly after Jonah and Daniel's deaths, a homeless pregnant teenage, Evangeline, arrives in the neighborhood with nowhere to go and no place to stay. Issac and Lorrie both make connections with Evangeline, but still cannot forge a path toward each other. While Evangeline brings about positive changes in both of them, they are both forced to face the harsh realities of their pasts as well as the implications it may have on the future. 

This book was contemporary literature and a propulsive mystery in equal measures. I was instantly drawn into the dynamics among the residents of Port Furlong and eager to understand what precipitated both Jonah and Daniel's deaths. Tompkins' characters are well-written and easy to empathize with. I felt a strong connection to Evangeline, in particular, only a few chapters into this book. It is fascinating to watch this story unfold and to see in what ways the three main characters' lives intertwine or diverge. 

Death, loss, and grief are universal topics that are oftentimes challenging to render in an authentic fashion. I felt that Tompkins explored these topics with a gentle touch. Her portrayal of grief in the wake of a traumatic and unexpected loss rang true to me, and I felt that I was able to connect with the characters on this basis. 

There was a bit more religiousity and faith-based discussion in this book than I was prepared for. I'm not familiar with the Quaker faith, but I felt that Tompkins did well in presenting information about Quaker beliefs and rituals in an accessible and understandable manner. I am not a particularly religious person, rather I am spiritual, however I was still able to appreciate and understand each characters' faith, especially Isaac's. 

All-in-all, I loved this blend of mystery and contemporary literature and feel that fans of either genre will likely feel similarly.
Was this review helpful?
This novel is about distraction, resilience and grief.  The human condition is on display in this provoking novel.  I kept rooting for the characters to find a resolution or absolution.  I highly recommend this one it’ll stay with you long after you’ve done reading it.
Was this review helpful?
JoAnne Tompkins in her book “What Comes After” has written an amazing story of love and healing, following the worst of tragedies. Evangeline is a 16 year old girl who has been abandoned by her Mother. Her Mother gave birth to her when she was 14 years old  but, never grew up. After a succession of bad choices with men, the last of  who seduced and raped her daughter, she took off. She left he daughter in an old trailer, with no food and no way to pay for the rent. Evangeline, though is a survivor. She wanders a bit, meeting two boys in the woods. One is a bully, who rapes her, the other his “best friend” is sweet and kind. She is drawn to him and his kindness but later learns that the bully, Daniel is dead, supposedly killed by his friend, Jonah, who commits suicide. Evangeline has nowhere to go and it is cold. She goes to the huge Victorian house, owned by the father of one of the boys. He is mourning the lose of his son and his wife, who left him a few months before. He is a high school teacher who is know for adopting strays. He takes her in and later learns that she is pregnant. He lives next door to the boy, who killed his son and has had a very difficult time dealing with his neighbor, Lorrie. She lost her son and husband to suicide. Somehow, Evangeline and isaac’s faith, as a Quaker help him to heal. It was a chilling but, very plausible story of “What Comes After.” Highly Recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Excellent hook.  Heartbreaking, yet uplifting.   Highly recommend, as one of the best books I’ve read this year.   Great for book clubs
Was this review helpful?
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking look at choices and what comes after, how individuals' lives are affected by several choices. Imagine if you will tossing a pebble into a pond and watching it create ripples. This book examines the ripples that come from those pebbles being tossed.

Breathtaking and emotionally charged constantly, I wouldn't recommend starting it in the afternoon, or at night; you will lose sleep over it. This is a book that grabs you by the collar and throws you into the car for a ride you aren't going to forget.
Was this review helpful?
Loved this powerful redemption story. I was hooked from the first page. The strongest element of this book was undoubtedly the writing style, as it managed to convey mystery and intrigue while maintaining its deep profundity. I will definitely be picking up more work by this author.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?