As Kaui Hart Hemmings' carefully crafted new novel opens, Sarah St. John is trying to re-enter the world she knows after suffering the loss of her beloved 20-something son, Cully, to an avalanche. She had raised him as a single mother and is finding …
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As Kaui Hart Hemmings' carefully crafted new novel opens, Sarah St. John is trying to re-enter the world she knows after suffering the loss of her beloved 20-something son, Cully, to an avalanche. She had raised him as a single mother and is finding mixed support from others in her loss.
“The Possibilities” is set in Breckenridge, a seemingly idyllic ski town, where Hawaii-born Hemmings once lived. Tragedy is an unexpected visitor here.
The Colorado College graduate's descriptions of Rocky Mountains scenery and lifestyle almost make the book a movie-in-waiting, and Hemmings, who also wrote “The Descendants” (made into an Oscar-winning film) about another family's experience with grief, has an early film commitment.
The author has created a cast of ski-town characters, starting with Sarah, a native, as commentator on the light, sale-oriented TV commentary piped into hotels.
A single mother, Sarah lives with her widowed father, who was an original ski-area founder and now deals with his grief over the loss of a grandson by going on buying sprees from TV shopping networks.
The relationship between father and daughter is a nice feature of this book. Neither depiction is at all cliche.
Sarah's best friend, Suzanne, is going through a messy divorce, but helps Sarah cope with her need to move on in her life. While Suzanne's daughter at Colorado College holds a memorial event for Cully, the young man's charming but unreliable father, Billy, reappears and perhaps has matured.
A young girl named Kit shows up on Sarah's doorstep, wanting to shovel snow, she says. But she brings a secret — additional insights about Cully and emotional complexities for Sarah and others in her life.
The novel proceeds mainly through dialogue, which is consistently engaging and at times bitterly funny, as Hemmings' characters struggle to heal.
Hemmings was born and raised in Hawaii, has degrees from Colorado College and Sarah Lawrence, and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She lives in Hawaii and is a young writer we will want to watch as she develops a body of work exploring the many facets of the human condition through her fine command of language.
“The Possibilities” was published May 13 by Simon and Schuster in hardcover. It is listed at $25 and should be available at libraries and bookstores.
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