In her highly anticipated follow-up to THE DESCENDANTS, Kaui Hart Hemmings continues to mine difficult human depths, the misery and factions created by grief in its richest and most pained form. THE POSSIBILITIES is a story in which facing grief changes life in ways that no one would ever expect.
The beautiful resort ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado, is where Hemmings investigates Sarah St. John, who has lost her son, Cully, in an avalanche. Although it’s only been three months, Sarah, who is not attached, becomes the pawn in all sorts of well-meaning ploys to help her come back to the real world in which everyone else is living. Even though Cully’s death affects many others, it is Sarah to whom all distractions are pointed.
"Hemmings has a way of making characters sound like they are sitting in a room with the reader. Even though there are sad things going on, there is a poignant humanity that comes through and pulls the reader farther into the story."
Sarah’s retired dad tries to ploy her out of her sadness with a myriad of things he orders off the QVC home shopping channel. Her best friend offers help in the guise of complaints about her own failing marriage. Sarah ends up dealing with the estranged father of Cully, a man with whom she has lost interest but who pulls into the situation a high yield of sturm and drang of his own. None of these people is actually helping Sarah. It is pretty clear, in her opinion, that she is making a go of “letting go” all on her own, a process with which she struggles. Suddenly, however, there is one distraction that does get her attention: a girl she has never met or even heard of, but who, of course, holds a secret message from Cully that will change the lives of Sarah and everybody else when revealed.
Hemmings has a way of making characters sound like they are sitting in a room with the reader. Even though there are sad things going on, there is a poignant humanity that comes through and pulls the reader farther into the story. Told in first person, this story really comes alive when Sarah has to confront Billy and his pain, along with their unfinished past. It is in their scenes together that Hemmings is at her sharpest; their physical and metaphysical wrestlings give the core of the story a real bravado that contrasts with the quiet desperation of the rest of the tale. It is a welcome intersection of styles.
Breckenridge is also a great character. Sarah’s family is deeply seated there. Sarah is a reporter who appears on local TV with news related to the resort and the skiing population. But when we first meet her, it is clear that she has bigger fish to fry than stories on rising resort prices. Still, the mountains are always there, reminding her of what’s happened to her, her family, and her future, along with her past and present. The mountain is a bold backdrop for the crumbling resolves of the characters. Hemmings eventually gives us hope that an avalanche will not happen again.
The surprise with the mysterious girl was something I could figure out pretty quickly, but it nonetheless is a nice bridge to move all these sad, suffering souls into a new world. What kind of hope is there for those left behind? Hemmings uses this girl to enter into a conversation about how far families go to maintain a connection with the ones they’ve lost. She also writes the most awesome dialogue --- funny yet heartfelt and human. Having Sarah be our guide through this world of lost souls helps to keep us connected to the twists and turns.
Ultimately, THE POSSIBILITIES makes us all feel like we’ve come home again and everything will be okay.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on June 13, 2014
- Publication Date: February 24, 2015
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- ISBN-10: 1476725802
- ISBN-13: 9781476725802