Writer Kaui Hart Hemmings had a lot to live up to with her second novel: Her best-selling, polished debut, The Descendants, was made into an Oscar-winning film starring George Clooney. With The Possibilities, she delivers on her early promise while making a striking departure setting-wise, moving from the tropical islands of her native Hawaii to the snowy mountains of Colorado.

After Sarah St. John’s 22-year-old son Cully dies in a skiing accident, she struggles to return to life. Her job as a co-host of a Breckenridge travel show (the kind of cheesy production that is shown on hotel TV channels) suddenly seems meaningless. Her widowed dad, who has been staying with her, seems to be making that arrangement permanent. And Cully’s dad Billy, whom Sarah never married, is back in the picture in a confusing way. Then a lovely but mysterious young woman named Kit shows up at Sarah’s house, with news that will send the family reeling.

Sarah hits the road with Billy, her dad, her best friend and Kit, heading to a memorial service at Cully’s college. This motley crew finds out a lot about themselves and each other, and they’re forced to make some difficult choices. And yet, Hemmings manages to make this road trip as hilarious as it is touching, punctuated with knockout dialogue.

Hemmings has a unique voice—both sensitive and humorous. In her hands, Sarah is all-too-human, a middle-aged woman who struggles to redefine herself after losing the child she raised mostly on her own. “I close my eyes and imagine his possibilities, the different hues of his self, what his face would look like in ten years, the kind of man he would be,” Sarah says. “He never had the chance to become himself. He never had the chance to be anyone else.”

While The Possibilities is a book ostensibly about death, it is at its core really about life—in all its messy, funny, hurtful, confusing and transcendent moments.  

 

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Kaui Hart Hemmings about The Possibilities.

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