*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: What is Going to Happen Next
Author: Karen Hofmann
Publisher: NeWest Press
Publication Date: September 15, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Karen Hofmann’s empathetic and cathartic novel, What is Going to Happen Next, pieces together the lives of five members of the Lund family following their enforced dispersal after the death of the father and the hospitalization of the mother in the remote West Coast community of Butterfly Lake. It explores their self-doubts and aspirations in the ways they cope with their separation and reunion through their work and personal relationships, and reveals the ways in which their past is filtered through memory and desire. It also skillfully exposes a Vancouver class system from the perspectives of diverse socio-economic conditions and lifestyles.
What is Going to Happen Next is a story of family and self-hood as it explores the details of a family torn apart early on in the characters’ childhoods and their attempts to reconcile their pasts with who they’ve become as adults. This story explores what happened to the children after their father died and their family fell apart. It follows them through adulthood as they cope with the struggles of their pasts and look to find connection and meaning in their present and future. Their current lives are so thoroughly shaped by the different situations they ended up in as children, informing who they became as adults.
This novel is actually falls into a coming-of-age category, even though many of the siblings are already adults. Each sibling is working to come to terms with where they’ve come from and where their siblings each ended up. They are mourning a lost past and seeking to create a renewed future. Mandalay, the eldest, seems to have it all together, but when you dive into her live, things are held tenuously together with the slightest of strings. She struggles with anger and jealousy, and doesn’t quite seem to know herself as well as she portrays. Cleo, next in line, has it all from the outside. She’s always taken a mothering role and that has defined her for so long, however she’s lost a bit of herself in that role, caring for others with no one left to care for her. Cliff, we learn, has struggled with injury both mental and physical, and that has left him as almost a shell, timid, afraid, and full of anxieties. He’s seeking happiness, but doesn’t have the understand to be able to attain that on his own. And Bodhi/Ben was adopted and raised in privilege. His return signals a significant difference in class between the family he’s always known and the family he’s just discovered. His innocence and youth leaves him open to discovering love and acceptance.
The characters as so unique from one another, each with a distinct voice and personality. Hofmann has written truly individual characters, so well-formed with their own voices. The risk with so many perspectives is that it’s a struggle to maintain difference between the characters, but that’s not been a problem for Hofmann. She entwines these characters’ stories so that the reader can see how these lives run parallel to one another, so different yet so similar at the same time. The children may have been raised in different homes with different insights and values, however as adults they come together to build anew.
I would highly recommend this wonderful piece of Canadian fiction. It’s always a delight to discover a new Canadian voice that I had not read before.