The Possibilities – Kaui Hart Hemmings (3 stars)

The author of The Descendants returns with a second novel about grief

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The Possibilities – Kaui Hart Hemmings

Bereavement is a recurrent theme in Kaui Hart Hemmings' work. Her debut novel The Descendants (adapted into an Oscar-winning film) profiles a family as they deal with the loss of a mother and wife, while this latest offering explores the life of Sarah St. John after her son Cully is killed.

As with her Hawaii-based first novel, Hemmings plays the imperfect grieving process out against an idyllic backdrop, with the action taking place at the Breckenridge ski resort. It is here that Sarah meets Kit, a girl from Cully's past, who comes armed with a revelation that threatens to change Sarah's future. The storyline is predictable, and its slow trudge towards an inevitable conclusion is at times detrimental to the novel’s impact. Fortunately, the plot is carried by strong characterisation, droll dialogue and a poignant psychological profiling of Hemmings’ protagonist Sarah.

Though not entirely enthralling, Hemmings’ unique style of prose strikes a strong balance between humour and heartache, and she has managed to create a novel which is unsentimental yet unexpectedly emotional. If only the novel’s pace was as quick as the writer’s wit, the possibility for enjoyment would have been far greater.

Out now, from Jonathan Cape.

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