What Comes After

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: JoAnne Tompkins
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Apr. 2021 (read Oct. 2021 on Audible)

It’s been awhile since I read this one, but I wanted to review it anyways because it’s one of the stranger books I read in 2021. I’d seen it floating around on Goodreads and it was a bit of an impulsive buy as an audiobook.

What Comes After is set in the pacific northwest and is about what life is like after you experience a major tragedy. In this case, it’s about a teenage boy who goes missing, and then his best friend confesses to having killed him before taking his own life. Understandably, both boys families, who are next door neighbours, are traumatized by the loss of their sons, as is young Evangeline, who is a runaway girl that was connected to both boys.

Evangeline ends up forging relationships with both boys families and we get multiple perspectives from Evangeline and the parents. I wasn’t really sure what to make of this one. It was an interesting concept and the writing is fine, but everything about the book made me so uncomfortable that it was hard to really like it. I feel like being uncomfortable is kind of the point with a book like this, but I struggled to connect with some of the characters. I liked Laurie, who was the mother of the boy who killed himself and struggles with feelings of both grief and guilt, but I didn’t really like Isaac, the father of the boy who was murdered. Isaac is a mormon and while there’s nothing wrong with this, I didn’t find him a particularly relatable character. Nor did I really connect with Evangeline, which I wish I had because she’s one of the most interesting characters in the book and a real victim of circumstance. She’s a liar and reluctant to open up, neither of which I faulted her for, but it did make me feel detached from her character.

I liked some of the themes that the author explored around abuse and survivorship and I think it makes for a really interesting debut, but I had to admit that I just couldn’t really relate with the characters. The circumstance is so dark and while murder and intrigue make for a great mystery novel, as literary fiction it was just something that I had no reference point for. I couldn’t really move past my discomfort with the storyline and while it wasn’t a bad novel by any means, I just don’t think I’d want to return for more.

So overall, a solid 3 star read, not bad, not great, just not really a book that I enjoyed either.

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