Simon & Schuster: 5/13/2014
Hardcover, 288 pages
IN THE IDYLLIC SKI TOWN of Breckenridge, Colorado, Sarah St. John is reeling. Three months ago, her twenty-two-year-old son, Cully, died in an avalanche. Though single, Sarah is hardly alone in her grief. Her father, a retiree, tries to distract her with gadgets from the QVC home shopping channel. Sarah’s best friend offers life advice by venting details of her own messy divorce. Even Cully’s father reemerges, stirring more emotions and confusion than Sarah needs. Still, Sarah feels she is facing the stages of grief—the anger, the sadness, the letting go—alone.Barely ready to face the fact she will never again hear the swoosh of her son’s ski pants, or watch him skateboard past her window, Sarah is surprised when a strange girl arrives on her doorstep. Unexpected and unexplained, she bears a secret from Cully that could change all of their lives forever.Kaui Hart Hemmings highlights the subtle poignancies of grief and relationships in this stunning look at people faced with impossible choices in the wake of a tragedy. With the unsentimental and refreshingly wry style famous for presenting trouble in paradise in The Descendants, Hemmings in The Possibilities considers the difficult questions of what we risk to keep our loved ones close.
The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings is a very highly recommended novel about a mother dealing with her grief.
Three months ago 43 year old Sarah St. John's 22 year old son, Cully, was killed in an avalanche. Set in Breckenridge, Colorado, where Sarah is a talk show host, she tries going back to work after a three month absences, but understands all too well that she may not be ready. She silently entreats "Please, give me strength. Strength to return, to get back to life. My plan is to move in seamlessly, drawing as little attention to myself as possible. I will reemerge wearing a figurative cap, similar to the one my twenty-two-year-old son wore, what the kids wear—a cap to hide their eyes, their face, a cap that says I’m here but I’m not here." (Location 88)
While Sarah and her father, Lyle, are trying to deal with their grief as much as they can, they chose opposing strategies. Lyle is coping through buying things off the Home Shopping Network while Sarah feels the need to cleanse her home, Cully's room. Her best friend, Suzanne, offers to help Sarah clean up and organize Cully's room, but she is also trying to cope with her own grief from her divorce and she thoughtlessly shares this, "The anger, the sadness, the letting go. We all go through these stages. Divorce is a kind of death, and... there are stages of grief. I find it comforting that we’re not alone. Big tragedies, small ones—” (Location 501)
Cully's father, Billy, is also trying to recover. Even though he and Sarah never married, they are friends. Sarah admits to him:
“It’s hard to talk to people. It’s hard to be with people. They really bother me now. People at work, friends, Miss Irony over there.”
“I don’t like people either,” he says. (Location 1299)
Sarah knows that one of the saddest parts about a death is being burdened by a lot of things our loved ones left behind. But all the time Sarah is trying to come to terms with Cully's death, she also begins to realize that she didn't actually know everything about her son's life anymore, especially when several baggies of pot and a large stash of cash is discovered. She also learns that Cully had a life quite apart from her and often called his father, Billy, just to talk. It seems that Cully shared things with Lyle and Billy that he didn't with Sarah.
While Suzanne's daughter, Morgan, plans a memorial service at the community college, Sarah and Lyle meet Kit, who also knew Cully, it seems that this family has much more to consider as they mourn the all-too-young loss of a loved one. Clearly Cully is grieved and mourned by many,
I love The Possibilities.
Hemmings did a marvelous job capturing the strong conflicting emotions during a tragedy of this magnitude. Her writing is superb and her ability to capture the raw emotions in the aftermath of tragic circumstances in a family who has no choice but to keep moving forward is commendable. There is poignant insight and a depth of understanding the grieving process present in the characters and their actions/words. This is also about the family moving on, finding their way in a world without Cully and has a few rather humorous moments too.
After suffering from two tragic deaths in my immediate family in under two months, I could understand Sarah's tortured emotions - her anger and sadness all mixed together. I am also experiencing the need to simplify, to get rid of stuff, to cleanse my life because you leave it all behind in the end. Grief is a fickle emotion; while it seems fathomless it can also take on a crass and greedy mantle. People can want a part of what might have been possible rather than looking at the possibilities in their own lives.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes.