What Comes After

Joanne Tompkins. Riverhead, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-5930-8599-8
Tompkins’s intense debut blends a mystery and a depiction of a Quaker community’s psychological processing of grief after the death of two teenage boys. Daniel Balch is killed by his childhood friend and next-door neighbor, Jonah Geiger, who then dies by suicide. In the aftermath, Daniel’s father, Isaac, a teacher at the high school, takes in an abandoned pregnant 16-year-old girl, Evangeline McKensey, and later wonders if either Jonah or Daniel was the father. Meanwhile, Jonah’s widowed mother, Lorrie, helps Isaac with Evangeline, and Isaac’s friend and high school principal, Peter Thibodeau, worries about what it would mean for the truth to come out about the pregnancy. Tompkins slowly and tantalizingly draws out the details as Isaac struggles with his faith. Chapters from Jonah’s point of view can be wrenching, especially when he reflects on good versus evil and his experiences in Quaker meetings, but at other times they fall flat and feel overstuffed with exposition. Tompkins’s strong point is in deepening the emotional complexities of each character’s actions with well-placed backstory, as with Lorrie’s and Peter’s involvement in the stories of Jonah and Evangeline. While anger, loss, and grief dominate the characters’ lives, forgiveness and connection ease the pain. At its best, this illuminates the limits of faith when facing the darker corners of human behavior. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/15/2021
Release date: 04/13/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-08601-8
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-593-39572-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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